Chilean poet, physicist Nicanor Parra dies at 103

SANTIAGO – Nicanor Parra, a Chilean physicist, mathematician and self-described “anti-poet” whose eccentric writings won him a leading place in Latin American literature, has died at the age of 103.

His death was confirmed Tuesday by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

President-elect Sebastián Piñera also recognised the contribution of Parra to Chilean literature and asked for a minute’s silence at an event where he was naming his cabinet.

Parra wrote his most renowned book, “Poems and Antipoems”, while studying cosmology in Oxford between 1949-51.

Parra’s works were characterized by wit and irreverence. He was also a respected physicist, earning a degree from the University of Chile and then studying physics at Brown University and cosmology at Oxford University in England.

He was a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Chile and taught at Columbia, Yale, New York University and Louisiana State University.

Parra spent the last decades of his life secluded in his home on the coast of Chile.

In 2011 he was awarded the Premio Cervantes, the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish-speaking world.

He once urged poets to “come down from Olympus” and deal with the real world. He also suggested that young poets should free themselves from conventions.

Parra was proposed four times for the Nobel Prize in Literature but never won it.

He came from an artistic family. His sister, Violeta Parra, was one of Chile’s most renowned singer-songwriters and his brother, Roberto, also dedicated himself to writing and performing songs based on folklore.