Proem

By Octavio Paz

  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.

 

Syllables seeds.

 

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Octavio Paz enjoyed a worldwide reputation as a master poet and essayist. Although Mexico figures prominently in Paz’s work—one of his best-known books, The Labyrinth of Solitude, for example, is a comprehensive portrait of Mexican society. Paz won the Nobel Prize in 1990, and died eight years later at the age of 84. His passing was mourned as the end of an era for Mexico. According to his obituary in Americas, “Paz’s literary career helped to define modern poetry and the Mexican personality.”