The Poems of Octavio Paz

The Poems of Octavio Paz - Octavio Paz, Eliot Weinberger

My high school IB history teacher was extremely passionate about history, so much that he would give out extra packages of notes on various events and figures associated with the time period we were studying that we most likely didn’t need to know. I remember Octavio Paz figuring in one of them, and remember hearing our teacher praise him as a poet all of us should read at least once in our lives. When my university professor spent half a class talking about Paz and how he related to Mexican history, talking as well about his father, the famous diplomat, and other figures like Pancho Villa and Madeiro, I was the only one in class who knew who and what he was talking about. I was extremely glad to finally be giving Paz’s work a read, and hoped I would be as impressed as my history teacher promise.

 

And indeed I was. Although I had to read large, though still selective, chunks of poems from the book, I felt I got a good sense of where Paz was coming from, how he wrote, and what he focused on. There is an incredibly soothing feeling to his poems, even when they take a turn for the bittersweet and sometimes even terrifying. He really is a word master. The stars, sun, and moon always find their way into his poems, as well as the irresistibly romantic and sensual way in which he talks about women. “A Tale of Two Gardens” was particularly worth mentioning in that regard. Sometimes the thread of thought got lost behind the beautiful writing, while at other times the mass of references would become slightly overbearing due to lack of knowledge, but even in these cases, a couple extra reads always helped. Even if I still didn’t understand everything Paz was referring to or talking about, the melodic hum of his words got to me every time.

 

Paz deserves all the praise he gets, and is worth studying today, tomorrow, and for years to come. There is a timeless quality to his work, as well as strong, focus referrals to historical events and various figures, both real and not. This collection works well as both an introduction to his work as well as serving as a general collection to a reader who is familiar with the work already. I will probably be referring to this specific version again in the future when I’ll be revisiting Paz’s work.