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Now in paperback, the definitive, life-spanning, bilingual edition of the poems by the Nobel Prize laureate
The Poems of Octavio Paz is the first retrospective collection of Paz’s poetry to span his entire writing career from his first published poem, at age seventeen, to his magnificent last poem. This landmark bilingual edition contains many poems that have never been translated into English before, plus new translations based on Paz’s final revisions. Assiduously edited by Eliot Weinberger—who has been translating Paz for over forty years—The Poems of Octavio Paz also includes translations by the poet-luminaries Elizabeth Bishop, Paul Blackburn, Denise Levertov, Muriel Rukeyser, and Charles Tomlinson. Readers will also find Weinberger’s capsule biography of Paz, as well as notes on many poems in Paz’s own words, taken from various interviews he gave throughout his long and singular life.
Paz (1914 1998), who won the Nobel Prize in 1990, dominated Mexican letters during the last decades of his life; his influence was global, and his powers of invention beyond dispute. This ambitious bilingual selection (far from complete, despite the title) is the first to span his career. Readers new to Paz will notice consistencies self-consciousness about words and meanings, as Syllables/ ripen in the mind,/ flower in the mouth ; erotic passion; reliance on common nouns (sun, flame, leaves); and a sense of poetic authority listen to me as one listens to the rain. And yet the same readers may marvel at Paz s variety: haiku-like miniatures; the tempestuous book-length poem Sunstone ; fast-moving prose poems; abstract odes; extended descriptions of places in Mexico, India, Afghanistan, and Japan; flourishing responses to visual art; even a long and passionate poem ( Blanco ) that divides itself in two parallel columns, perhaps corresponding to male and female. The essayist Weinberger translated Paz, with Paz s approval, for decades; he has revised some versions to fit Paz s revisions, included a few by other hands, and supplied careful explanatory notes. The result is that rarity, an authoritative translation that should get sustained U.S. attention, and that often sounds right read aloud.