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Chilean poet recites uncomfortable verses for military men

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Santiago, Oct 21 (EFE).- Prize-winning Chilean poet Raul Zurita recited a poem of his about a "disappeared" political prisoner of the erstwhile dictatorship before officers and cadets at the country's military academy.

The audience for Thursday night's inauguration of the ChilePoesia 2005 poetry competition, held in the main hall of the academy, did not applaud the poet's words. But neither did they boo, and Zurita told the online publication El Mostrador that his encounter with the soldiers was "a great experience."

"That means that it is possible, sometimes art can really change the world," the poet said after reciting his 1985 work "Canto a su amor desaparecido" (Song to a Missing Love) to hundreds of military men, who listened in complete silence.

"It is a symbolic gesture, and we read here what we read in any part of Chile: our sadness, and also the signs of our hope. That means a lot," said Zurita, winner of Chile's National Literature Prize in 2000.

In one of the verses of "Canto a su amor desaparecido," the poet asks: "Can you tell me where my child is?"

Also taking part in Thursday's recital was Jose Maria Memet, among other poets.

A fixture in the ChilePoesia competition, Memet said that everyone was "tense" at the beginning of Zurita's reading. "It is the first time that this is done; it's a beginning. But I believe it is unforgettable," he commented to El Mostrador.

Memet said his intention is "to build the future" and dispel hate, but without erasing Chile's memory of past horrors.

"One cannot live in a country thinking that the other is your enemy forever," he said. EFE

Copyright 2005 Efe. All Rights Reserved.

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