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 40,000 ebooks are downloaded annually from the Ocaso website.
Ocaso Press is not anti-Modernist — very far from it — but does contend that today's poetry styles are often 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.
Current literary 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.
In 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 the genre, but important elements in poetry are 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 and poem.
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 free verse, the great majority of today's academics and college students have only the most rudimentary ear for traditional styles. 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 so many examples here of styles no longer used by contemporary poets? Because the older styles are still needed for translation from formal poems in other languages. Loose, semi-prose styles aren't generally successful, as many internet site unwittingly show, though ranking well with the search engines. 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.
- 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 will undertake.
- 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.