Ugly Duckling Presse

Defense of the Idol

Omar Cáceres

translated by Mónica de la Torre

Spring 2018
Forthcoming"The poet makes the case for the need to experience a different world. "
Branded a “poète maudit” for the cryptic circumstances surrounding his life and death, Omar Cáceres once tried to destroy all copies of his one and only book. The myth around him survived thanks to the inclusion of fifteen poems from Defense of the Idol in the groundbreaking anthology Antología de poesía chilena nueva from 1935. Presented here for the first time in English translation, along with the sole foreword Vicente Huidobro ever wrote for a poet, the poems of Cáceres possess a ghostly, metaphysical energy combined with modern-age imagery: bows pulsate, moons hurtle, rains sing, trees drag their shadows in drunk stupors, winds break the sky open. But the interior life of the poet assumes dominance, interrogated through anguished, turbulent dreamscapes of language. Excerpt ˇ



The trees are drunk, from the nocturnal lights,
and they drag their shadows, nervous and stiff.

Their shadows, which strangle the night’s winds,
shelter and rattle me, as if I was a bird.

And my steps echo in their black boughs,
and the weakest of hooks fill me with vertigo;

yet when I cast my eye on them from a pair of simpler ones,
they answer me, swaying, that they remained intact...

The leaves, dilating the shared shadows,
return like ruined boats to their tree.

They cannot, oh, attain the solid banks
that the tips of heavenly bodies announce from above,

yet quivering and thick with silence they plow
through deep and freezing ponds of miracle.

And in the nocturnal trees embracing the earth,
I find oblivion and mercy, when in despair,

while the light runs down their boughs,
thin, diaphanous… LIKE WATER BETWEEN MY HANDS!

Close ˆ

About the Author

Omar Cáceres
Omar Cáceres (b. 1904) was a cult poet in the Chilean avant-garde. He published one book of poetry, Defense of the Idol (1934), with an introduction by Vicente Huidobro, of which only two copies survived after Cáceres tried to burn the entire print run upon publication due to the edition's numerous typos. He had ties with the Communist Party, and according to poet Jorge Teillier, played the violin in an orchestra of the blind. He was murdered by unknown assailants in 1943.

About the Translator

Mónica de la Torre
Photo credit: Bruce Pearson
Mónica de la Torre is the author of six books of poetry, including The Happy End/All Welcome (UDP) and Feliz año nuevo, a volume of selected poetry published in Spain (Luces de Gálibo). Born and raised in Mexico City, she writes in, and translates into, Spanish and English. She teaches in the Literary Arts program at Brown University.

Advance Praise

Omar Cáceres knows that poetry is the valorization of inner life and that, in a work of poetry, the poet makes the case for the need to experience a different world. —Vicente Huidobro
Laconic, somber, precise, with a certain nervous demeanor, you could sense within him the poetic animal, hallucinating, ready to flee. Because he’d appear and disappear instantly, perhaps as if by black magic!—Volodia Tetelboim