Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Together with love, death has been one of the major themes throughout literary history. Its presence in poetry has been a constant from the beginnings of humankind, and death has prompted various poetic forms, from elegies to epitaphs and funeral chanting. Parra believes that poets have lost their capacity for redemption if they are concerned either with the recovery of an original harmony or with access to the absolute. Since Parra’s attitude as a poet is intentionally antiromantic and antisacralizing, his concept of the “antipoem” is a reaction against the metaphysical function of language.

“The Anti-Lazarus” is a perfect example of this stance. In the poem, Parra inverts the semantic values ordinarily associated with the idea of death. He is interested neither in the pain it provokes among the survivors nor in the possibilities of life after death. On the contrary, the poet understands death as a natural phenomenon, deprived of any sacred connotation. Death is simply a state of being that is superior to all others insofar as it frees human beings from suffering while giving them endless permanence. Because of this conceptual shift, death is not completely emptied of meaning but is reconfigured with a new and unusual semantic value.

A second aspect present in the poem, through the characterization of the dead person being addressed as a poet, is the questioning of literature’s effectiveness. Parra chooses the first section of...

(The entire section is 510 words.)