April 23, 2011

Poets for April 23, 2011 - Octavio Paz

The other poet who wrote in Spanish and who I read in the 1990s around the same time I read Neruda first is the Mexican poet, Octavio Paz and to date, The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz (1957-87) remains one of those books that I can pick up once every 6-12 months and find tremendous joy dipping into the many joys it has to offer. 
"There can be no society without poetry, but society can never be realized as poetry, it is never poetic. Sometimes the two terms seek to break apart. They cannot." - Octavio Paz (Signs in Rotation, 1967)
"I don't believe that there are dangerous writers: the danger of certain books is not in the books themselves but in the passions of their readers." - Octavio Paz (An Erotic Beyond: Sade)
''Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment." - Octavio Paz (The Bow and the Lyre), as quoted here.

Literature is the expression of a feeling of deprivation, a recourse against a sense of something missing. But the contrary is also true: language is what makes us human. It is a recourse against the meaningless noise and silence of nature and history.” - Octavio Paz
"My ambition was to be a poet and nothing but a poet. In my books in prose it was my intention to serve poetry, to justify and defend it, to explain it to others and to myself. I soon discovered that the defense of poetry, scorned in our century, was inseparable from the defense of freedom. That is the source of my interest in the political and social questions that have convulsed our time." - Octavio Paz (Poetry, Myth, Revolution), also as quoted here.

Octavio Paz (Born: March 31 1914, Mexico City, Mexico - Died: April 19 1998, Mexico City, Mexico)

And now, some of his poems:
Two Bodies
by Octavio Paz

Two bodies face to face
Are at times two waves
And the night is an ocean.

Two bodies face to face
Are sometimes two stones
And the night a desert.

Two bodies face to face
Are at times two roots
Intertwined in the night.

Two bodies face to face
Are sometimes two stilettos
And night lightening sparks.

Two bodies face to face
Are two stars who are falling
In a naked sky.


If you are the amber mare
              I am the road of blood
If you are the first snow
              I am he who lights the hearth of dawn
If you are the tower of night
              I am the spike burning in your mind
If you are the morning tide
              I am the first bird's cry
If you are the basket of oranges
              I am the knife of the sun
If you are the stone altar
              I am the sacrilegious hand
If you are the sleeping land
              I am the green cane
If you are the wind's leap
              I am the buried fire
If you are the water's mouth
              I am the mouth of moss
If you are the forest of the clouds
              I am the axe that parts it
If you are the profaned city
              I am the rain of consecration
If you are the yellow mountain
              I am the red arms of lichen
If you are the rising sun
              I am the road of blood

As One Listens To The Rain
by Octavio Paz

Listen to me as one listens to the rain,
not attentive, not distracted,
light footsteps, thin drizzle,
water that is air, air that is time,
the day is still leaving,
the night has yet to arrive,
figurations of mist
at the turn of the corner,
figurations of time
at the bend in this pause,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
without listening, hear what I say
with eyes open inward, asleep
with all five senses awake,
it's raining, light footsteps, a murmur of syllables,
air and water, words with no weight:
what we are and are,
the days and years, this moment,
weightless time and heavy sorrow,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
wet asphalt is shining,
steam rises and walks away,
night unfolds and looks at me,
you are you and your body of steam,
you and your face of night,
you and your hair, unhurried lightning,
you cross the street and enter my forehead,
footsteps of water across my eyes,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the asphalt's shining, you cross the street,
it is the mist, wandering in the night,
it is the night, asleep in your bed,
it is the surge of waves in your breath,
your fingers of water dampen my forehead,
your fingers of flame burn my eyes,
your fingers of air open eyelids of time,
a spring of visions and resurrections,
listen to me as one listens to the rain,
the years go by, the moments return,
do you hear the footsteps in the next room?
not here, not there: you hear them
in another time that is now,
listen to the footsteps of time,
inventor of places with no weight, nowhere,
listen to the rain running over the terrace,
the night is now more night in the grove,
lightning has nestled among the leaves,
a restless garden adrift-go in,
your shadow covers this page.

Touchby Octavio Paz

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

Between Going and Stayingby Octavio Paz 

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

I will leave you with his  short but lovely Nobel banquet speech celebrating life, nature, and this earth here.

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