About the Company
The Chilean publishing company Ocaso Press Ltda. provides translations,
guides, novels and poetry of recognized literary quality to schools,
universities and discriminating readers across the English-speaking
world. All material is free, and pdf ebooks can be read on tablets with
screens as small as seven inches. Some 30,000 ebooks are downloaded
annually from the Ocaso website.
Press is not anti-Modernist — very far from it — but does contend that
many of today's poetry styles are restricting and wrong-headed. Theory
has replaced appreciation, with works being valued more for what can be
read into them than any literary qualities they may possess. Important
aspects of literature — sensibility, generous tastes, wide experience —
have been subverted by speculative model-building. Critics do not have
the proper training in the disciplines they borrow from: evidence is
quoted out of context and/or misunderstood. Often the reasoning is
circular, theory employing as evidence what it needs to prove. Many
elements of theory are no longer accepted by their parent disciplines.
Theory has been pushed to the furthest edge of abstraction, and
evacuated of meaning, reference and example.
theory may be logical continuation of issues that have underlain
European thought for centuries. Most fundamental was a divorce between
the emotional and rational in human nature. The Romantics sought new
areas of feeling — in the past, wild landscapes, the hallucinations of
drugs. The Symbolists cultivated unusual states of mind with a fluid
and often musical allusiveness. Imagists pared down poetry to a few
striking pictures. The Futurists were stridently iconoclastic. Dadaists
and Surrealists extended the irrational. The Modernists turned
themselves into an exclusive caste — since taken over by academia — who
intellectualised their superiority over the conventional majority. The
New Critics concentrated on how intricately a poem worked, and were
largely unconcerned about what was meant or said about the larger
context. Postmodernists have retreated further, and claimed that poems
exist — and perhaps even reality itself — only in the words themselves.
contrast, Ocaso Press returns literature to its original intentions,
which is to give us a meaningful and sense-laden impression of our
lives. How that is achieved varies with intentions, but a vital
element in poetry is verse, both formal and free verse styles. It is verse, after
all, that gives structure to lines, and so liberates words from their
everyday uses and connotations. Words for poets have special meanings,
appropriate uses, associations, connotations, etymologies, histories of
use and misuse, moreover. Out of these properties the poetry is built,
even if the end cannot be entirely foreseen but grows out of the very
process of deployment, that continual, two-way dialogue between writer
We are born into language, using its words and ready-made phrases to
get through our busy lives. From those words and sometimes complete
phrases we make poetry — a poetry that is therefore ever latent in
language. What verse does is to select, organize and shape that
language, just as the radio set picks up and converts into sound what
we otherwise cannot hear. Far from constraining language, therefore,
verse gives it greater possibilities, significance and
responsibilities. Verse is an enabling mechanism, but through terms and
traditions that have to be learned.
Perhaps insulated by a belief in the superior properties of today's broken prose,
the great majority of academics and college students have only
the most rudimentary ear for verse of any description. And if that's an
extraordinary situation, it is one repeated in many of the experimental
arts where the critical theory is abstruse and taxing but often
produces something prosaic in the extreme. The craft aspect is entirely
overlooked, though it must be self evident that trying to write poetry
without developing an ear for verse is akin to writing an opera while
remaining ignorant of music. Opera lovers can dispense with the
technicalities and trust their simple passions, but composers and
critics have to study everything possible, from music theory to the
efforts of past composers, generally adding proficiency in some musical
instrument to their skills.
But why the emphasis on formal verse? Because the older styles allow
for richer work. Because the older
styles are still needed for translation from formal poems in other
languages. And because today's semi-prose styles tend to produce rather
pedestrian work, appealing more to fellow poets than readers. Being the
more demanding, the old
styles also train the ear better, just as contemporary dancers
generally learn the basics of their art through ballet.
Good poems are still being published by the small presses, but
they are somewhat few and limited. Amateur and serious poems have
become markedly different entities, and there is little work that
bridges the gap and combines the themes of one with the inteligence and
wide reading of the other. Matters are
happily different in painting, however, where the traditional work
marketed by leading galleries still displays genuine
gifts, sensibilities and sound technique. That work sells to art lovers
because their taste has been formed by thousands of delighted hours
spent in galleries, exhibitions and painting classes — i.e. by an
informed love of painting rather than a desire for acquisition or
status. Being genuine, that taste is also less susceptible to the
promotional word-spinning of contemporary art-critics, necessary though
those promotions may be for reputations and prices. Readers familiar
with magazines like 'International Artist'
(www.internationalartist.com) will know what is meant by traditional
standards, where practical advice
is backed by demonstration and clear prose.
In short, Ocaso Press applauds and exemplifies the great expansion that
Modernism has enabled — in styles and content — but wants
that expansion maintained, not closed off into self-admiring cliques created by poetry's rush to be ever more original.
- The guides adopt balanced positions of contentious issues, and are often more detailed —
replete with examples, arguments and references — than books offered by the commercial and academic presses.
- The novels are simply entertainment.
The poem collections employ strict and free verse styles, but not shy
away from the 'grand narratives' that Post-modernism has abandoned.
Many deal with important issues, therefore, and behind even the verse
tales is the extensive research that any decent historical novelist
- Translations are literary rather
than academic, but are generally close to the prose sense, often indeed
line for line. By employing traditional verse skills they aim to give
some indication of the splendours of the original works, and make the
translations worth reading in their own right. All ebooks are informed
by a wide reading in the relevant scholarship, and — where feasible (in
French and Latin, but not Greek or Sanskrit) — provide facing texts.