Poet of the Week: Octavio Paz

Posted by Tom Roberge, on October 23, 2012

Due to popular demand, and as a concession to common sense, we've decided to put poems here on our website — one poet per week.

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Paz_Octavio1.jpgThe Poems of Octavio Paz —  a definitive, life spanning, bilingual edition translated by Eliot Weinberger — officially goes on sale today, so we thought we'd share a pair of newly translated poems by the Nobel Prize-winner. 

Of Paz and this collection, Weinberger says:

It’s been fourteen years since Octavio Paz died and twenty-five years since the last substantial collection of his poetry, so I thought the time had come for a retrospective anthology. The book begins with his first published poem at age seventeen and ends with his last, long poem, “Response and Reconciliation.” Perhaps uniquely among the 20th century masters, his last poem was one of his best. 

I’ve taken this opportunity to fill in gaps among the previously untranslated, to present the poems of his last years (which have never been in English in book form), and to revise my old translations, some of which go back forty years. For the notes, rather than the usual factual identifications, I have taken Paz’s comments on his own poems from interviews and personal conversations, so it becomes a kind of “Paz on Paz” running commentary.

Much larger than a Selected Poems, but smaller than a Collected Poems (which would run to a few thousand pages), this is an overview of an extraordinary life in poetry, almost seventy years of recurrent themes and continual stylistic innovation, a poetry about nearly everything, a “tree within” with roots in pre-Columbian Mexico and branches that spread out across the world.

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The two poems below, both written towards the end of his life, help fill in that gap. 

Breathing

Still bodiless:
disheveled spring.
Invisible yet tangible,
it leaps around the corner,
hurries by, vanishes,
touches my forehead: no one there.

Spring air.
Nobody knows
how it appears and disappears.
The sun opens its eyes:
the world
has just turned twenty.

Light beats behind the blinds.
Sprouts shoot in my thoughts.
Air more than leaves,
a flutter barely green,
they turn for a moment and scatter.
Time weighs a little less.
                                            I breathe.

•   •   •

The Same

As morning begins
in a deep-rooted world,
every thing is the same.

The quiet flare
of the rose that opens
in the arms of air.

And the quiet of the dove
come from who knows where,
with white feathers and darting eyes.

Face to face, far and near,
the disheveled rose,
the polished dove.

The bodiless wind
runs through the branches:
everything changes, nothing remains.

The rose has two wings
and nests in a cornice,
settling in the vertigo.

Perfection unleaving,
revived by its scent.
the dove is flower and flame,

The different is now the same.

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You can read an early review here

Related Author: Octavio Paz |Eliot Weinberger
Related Book: The Poems of Octavio Paz
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