December 13, 2008

Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz [Mexico]

Born in Mexico City, the son of a lawyer, Octavio Paz was educated at National Autonomous University of Mexico, which he attended from 1932-1937. Paz began writing poetry in 1933, with the publication of Luna silvestre, and over the years established himself was as the major Mexican poet and essayist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1990.

Paz's work is highly varied, but one of the major elements of his writing is a tendancy to push poetry into prose so that the differentiation between the two is nearly indistinguishable. This is particularly so of El mono gramático (The Monkey Grammarian), published in 1974, which grew out of Paz's desire to publish a text which would intersect poetry, narrative, and essay. Other texts, such as Hijos del Aire and Renga are written in more than one language. Behind this is a constant attempt in his work of searching for the international community, of striving for a universality in his work that yet acknowledges the world's diversity.

Among his other books of poetry are ¿Aguila o sol? (1951), Piedra de sol (1957), Blanco (1967), and Vuelta (1971). He also translated William Carlos Williams, Guillaume Apollinaire, and numerous other poets into Spanish.

The critic Ronald Christ has summarized Paz's career: "By contraries..., by polarities and divergences converging in a rhetoric of opposites, Paz established himself as a brilliant stylist balancing the tension of East and West, art and criticism, the many and the one in the figures of his writing. Paz is thus not only a great writer; he is also an indispensable corrective to our cultural tradition and a critic in the highest sense in which he himself uses the word."


Luna silvestre (Mexico City: Fábula, 1933); ¡No pasarán! (Mexico City: Simbad, 1936); Raíz del hombre (Mexico City: Simbad, 1937); Bajo tu clara sombra y otros poems sobre España (Valencia: Españolas, 1937, revised ed. Valencia: Tierra Nueva, 1941); Entre la piedra y la flor (Mexico City: Nueva Voz, 1938); A la orilla del mundo y Primer día; Bajo tu clara somba; Raíz del hombre; Noche de resurreccions (Mexico City: Ars, 1942); Libertad bajo palabra (Mexico City: Tezontle, 1949); ¿Aguila o sol? (Mexico City: Tezontle, 1951); Semillas para un himno (Mexico City: Tezontle, 1954); Piedra de sol (Mexico City: Tezontle, 1957); La estación violenta (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1958); Agua y viento (Bogotá: Ediciones Mito, 1959); Libertad bajo palabra: Obra poética, 1935-1959 (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1960; revised ed., 1968); Salamandra (1959-1951) (Mexico City: J. Mortiz, 1962); Viento entero (Delhi: Caxton, 1965); Blanco (Mexico City: J. Moritz, 1967); Disco visuales (Mexico City: Era, 1968); Ladera este (1962-1968) (Mexico City: J. Moritz, 1969); La centena (Poemas: 1935-1968) (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1969); Topoemas (Mexico City: Era, 1971); Vuelta (Mexico City: El Mendrugo, 1971/Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1976); Renga [with Jacques Roubaud, Edoardo Sanguinetti, and Charles Tomlinson] (Mexico City: J. Mortiz, 1972); Pasado en claro (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1975); Air Born/Hijos del aire [with Charles Tomlinson] (Mexico City: Pescador, 1979); Poemas (1935-1975) (Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1979); Octavio Paz: Poemas recientes (Institución Cultural de Cantabria de la Diputación Provincial de Santander, 1981)


Selected Poems of Octavio Paz, trans. by Muriel Rukeyser (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963); Sun Stone/Piedra de sol, trans. by Muriel Rukeyser (New York: New Directions, 1963); Sun-Stone, trans. by Peter Miller (Toronto: Contact, 1963); Sun Stone, trans. by Donald Gardner (New York: Cosmos, 1969); Eagle or Sun? trans. by Eliot Weinburger (New York: October House, 1970/New York: New Directions, 1976); Configurations (contains Sun Stone, Blanco, and selections from Salamadra and Ladera este), trans. by G. Aroul and others (New York: New Directions 1971); Renga: A Chain of Poems (New York: Braziller 1972); Early Poems: 1935-1955, trans. by Muriel Rukeyser and others (New York: New Directions, 1973); Blanco, trans. by Eliot Weinberger (New York: The Press, 1974); A Draft of Shadows and Other Poems, trans. by Eliot Weinberger, Elizabeth Bishop and Mark Strand (New York: New Directions, 1979); Selected Poems, trans. by Charles Tomlinson and others (Harmonsworth, England: Penguin, 1979); Selected Poems, trans. by Eliot Weinberger (New York: New Directions, 1984); Cuatro chopos/The Four Poplars, trans. by Eliot Weinburger (New York: Center for Edition Works, 1985)

To watch a two-hour long symposium on Octavio Paz at the Library of Congress, click here:

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