Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz

 

 

 

Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz

 

 

Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz

Born in Mexico City in 1914; died in 1998. Essayist, poet, diplomat, and cultural historian, Octavio Paz is Mexico's foremost man of letters of the twentieth century. His most famous prose work, El laberinto de la soledad (The Labyrinth of Solitude, 1961), explored the complexities of the Mexican psyche. In its unique combination of Indian and European sensibilities, Paz contended, the Mexican consciousness resists both the linguistic hegemony of the Spanish language and the cultural "otherness" of the United States. At the same time, Paz' other essays and poems have explored more universal and international issues of contemporary life, especially questions of psychic alienation and integration.

Octavio Paz

Paz himself has rejected the dreamy lyricism of his earliest work, as in Luna silvestre (Sylvan Moon, 1933). Although his early poems were heavily influenced by Surrealism and by Asian philosophy, the history of Paz’ poems is a track of restless formalism, ranging from tight imagistic perceptual moments, as in A la orilla del mundo (On the Edge of the World, 1942) and La estación violenta (The Violent Season, 1958), to the broader inclusiveness of poems based on Aztec models, to even more humanly universal techniques and themes, as in Blanco (White, 1967). In politics, Paz describes himself as a "disillusioned leftist." In the 1930s he fought on the side of the Spanish Republic. As a diplomat in the 1950s, he represented Mexico in several countries, including France, where he became friends with the Surrealists, especially Breton. Paz served also as ambassador to India, although he resigned that position in protest against the Tlatelolco Massacre (in which students were killed by government security forces, shortly before the opening of the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City). Since 1976 Paz has edited the influential magazine Vuelta.

The common thread that unites these various literary and social identities is Paz' enduring commitment to the complex communicability of metaphorical language. "Poetry makes things more transparent and clearer and teaches us to respect men and nature," Paz insists. A writer of interpenetrations—of solitude and solitarity, of clarity and allusiveness, of Mexican specificity and international applicability—Paz won the 1990 Nobel Prize in literature.*

* From Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry. A Bilingual Anthology, edited by Stephen Tapscott, University of Texas Press,

 

 

 

Frida Kahlo, Two Nudes in the Wood
Frida Kahlo Two Nudes in the Wood

 

 


Touch

My hands
open the curtains of your being
clothe you in a further nudity
uncover the bodies of your body
My hands
invent another body for your body

 

 

 


Frida Kahlo  Self Portrait I

 

 

 

 

Frida Kahlo, Embrace of the Universe
Frida Kahlo Embrace of the Universe

 

 


Sunstone (Fragments)

crystal willow, a poplar of water,
a tall fountain the wind arches over,
a tree deep-rooted yet dancing still,
a course of a river that turns, moves on,
doubles back, and comes full circle,
forever arriving:
the calm course
of the stars or an unhurried spring,
water with eyes closed welling over
with oracles all night long,
a single presence in a surge of waves,
wave after wave till it covers all,
a reign of green that knows no decline,
like the flash of wings unfolding in the sky, (...)
I travel your body, like the world,
your belly is a plaza full of sun,
your breasts two churches where blood
performs its own, parallel rites,
my glances cover you like ivy,
you are a city the sea assaults,
a stretch of ramparts split by the light
in two halves the color of peaches,
a domain of salt, rocks and birds,
under the rule of oblivious noon,
dressed in the color of my desires,
you go your way naked as my thoughts,
I travel your eyes, like the sea,
tigers drink their dreams in those eyes,
the hummingbird burns in those flames,
I travel your forehead, like the moon,
like the cloud that passes through your thoughts,
I travel your belly, like your dreams,
your skirt of corn ripples and sings,
your skirt of crystal, your skirt of water,
your lips, your hair, your glances rain
all through the night, and all day long
you open my chest with your fingers of water,
you close my eyes with your mouth of water,
you rain on my bones, a tree of liquid
sending roots of water into my chest,
I travel your length, like a river,
I travel your body, like a forest,
like a mountain path that ends at a cliff
I travel along the edge of your thoughts,
and my shadow falls from your white forehead,
my shadow shatters, and I gather the pieces
and go with no body, groping my way, (...)
...because two bodies, naked and entwined,
leap over time, they are invulnerable,
nothing can touch them, they return to the source,
there is no you, no I, no tomorrow,
no yesterday, no names, the truth of two
in a single body, a single soul,
oh total being... (...)
to love is to battle, if two kiss
the world changes, desires take flesh
thoughts take flesh, wings sprout
on the backs of the slave, the world is real
and tangible, wine is wine, bread
regains its savor, water is water,
to love is to battle, to open doors,
to cease to be a ghost with a number
forever in chains, forever condemned
by a faceless master;
the world changes
if two look at each other and see (...)
I follow my raving, rooms, streets,
I grope my way through corridors of time,
I climb and descend its stairs, I touch
its walls and do not move, I go back
to where I began, I search for your face,
I walk through the streets of myself
under an ageless sun, and by my side
you walk like a tree, you walk like a river,
and talk to me like the course of a river,
you grow like wheat between my hands,
you throb like a squirrel between my hands,
you fly like a thousand birds, and your laugh
is like the spray of the sea, you head
is a star between my hands, the world
grows green again when you smile,
eating an orange,
the world changes
if two, dizzy and entwined, fall
on the grass: the sky comes down, trees
rise, space becomes nothing but light
and silence, open space for the eagle
of the eye, the white tribe of clouds
goes by, and the body weighs anchor,
the soul sets sail, and we lose
our names and float adrift in the blue
and green, total time where nothing
happens but its own, easy crossing (...)
-when was life ever truly ours?
when are we ever what we are?
we are ill-reputed, nothing more
than vertigo and emptiness, a frown in the mirror,
horror and vomit, life is never
truly ours, it always belongs to the others,
life is no one's, we all are life-
bread of the sun for the others,
the others that we all are-
when I am I am another, my acts
are more mine when they are the acts
of others, in order to be I must be another,
leave myself, search for myself
in the others, the others that don't exist
if I don't exist, the others that give me
total existence, I am not,
there is no I, we are always us,
life is other, always there,
further off, beyond you and
beyond me, always on the horizon,
life which unlives us and makes us strangers,
that invents our face and wears it away,
hunger for being, oh death, our bread

 

 

 

Frida Kahlo, Diego and I
Frida Kahlo Diego and I

 

 


Between Going and Staying

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.
All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.
Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.
Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.
The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.
I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.
The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause

 

 

 

Frida Kahlo, Moses
Frida Kahlo Moses

 

 


Brotherhood
Homage to Claudius Ptolemy

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

 

 

Octavio Paz