by Octavio Paz
translated by Eliot Weinberger
At times poetry is the vertigo of bodies and the vertigo of speech and the vertigo of death;
the walk with eyes closed along the edge of the cliff, and the verbena in submarine gardens;
the laughter that sets on fire the rules and the holy commandments;
the descent of parachuting words onto the sands of the page;
the despair that boards a paper boat and crosses,
for forty nights and forty days, the night-sorrow sea and the day-sorrow desert;
the idolatry of the self and the desecration of the self and the dissipation of the self;
the beheading of epithets, the burial of mirrors; the recollection of pronouns freshly cut in the garden of Epicurus, and the garden of Netzahualcoyotl;
the flute solo on the terrace of memory and the dance of flames in the cave of thought;
the migrations of millions of verbs, wings and claws, seeds and hands;
the nouns, bony and full of roots, planted on the waves of language;
the love unseen and the love unheard and the love unsaid: the love in love.
In 1914, Octavio Paz was born in Mexico City to a family of Spanish and native Mexican descent. He was educated at the National University of Mexico in law and literature.
Under the encouragement of Pablo Neruda, Paz began his poetic career in his teens by founding an avant-garde literary magazine, Barandal, and publishing his first book of poems, Luna silvestre (1933).
In his youth, Paz spent time in the United States and Spain, where he was influenced by the Modernist and Surrealist movements. His sequence of prose poems, Aguila o sol? (Eagle or Sun?, 1951) is a visionary mapping of Mexico, its past, present, and future.
His collection Piedra de Sol (Sun Stone, 1957) borrows its structure from the Aztec calendar. This long poem, and Paz's sociocultural analysis of Mexico, El laberinto de la soledad (The Labyrinth of Solitude, 1950), established him as a major literary figure in the 1950s. More on Octavio Paz...