Raul Zurita started out studying mathematics, much as his fellow Chilean, Nicanor Parra, started out studying physics before turning to poetry. His early work is a ferocious response to the Chilean September 11, which took place in 1973 when Pinochet took power in the Golpe de Estado. Like many other Chileans, Zurita was arrested and tortured. When he was released, he helped to form a radical artistic group CADA, and he became renowned for his provocative and intensely physical public performances. In the early 80’s, Zurita famously sky-wrote passages from his poem, The New Life, over Manhattan and later (still during the reign of Pinochet) he bulldozed the phrase Ni Pena Ni Miedo (Without Pain Or Fear) into the Atacama Desert, where it can still be seen because children in the neighboring town bring shovels into the desert and turn over the sand in the letters. For fifteen years, Zurita worked on a trilogy which is considered one of the signal poetic achievements in Latin American poetry: Purgatory appeared in 1979, Ante-paradise in 1982, and The New Life in 1993. Raul Zurita is one of a handful of the most important contemporary Latin American poets, and he is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Literary Prize of Chile. Translations of Purgatory and Anteparadise were published in the United States in the 80’s. Three new books, INRI, translated by William Rowe, Song of the Missing Love, translated by Daniel Borzutzky, and Purgatory, translated by Anna Deeny, are forthcoming in 2009 from, respectively, Merick Press, Action Books, and The University of California.
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