Lola, my beautiful Spanish colleague, gave me the gift of Octavio Paz for Christmas. I had not read him before, and, reading these early poems, I was impressed by the lyrical, almost mystical, intensity of this young man who became the 1990 Nobel Laureate.
This is a perfect lyric:
Lightning or fishes
in the night of the sea
and birds, lightning
in the forest night.
Our bones are lightning
in the night of the flesh.
O world, all is night,
life is the lightning.
The later poems of these early collections are longer, more meditative, in which Paz "feels his metaphysics," as Muriel Rukeyser puts it in her introduction. One that combines thought and feeling to an erotic intensity is "Hymn among the ruins," which begins thus:
Self crowned the day displays its plumage.
A shout tall and yellow,
impartial and beneficent,
a hot geyser into the middle sky!
Appearances are beautiful in this their momentary truth.
The sea mounts the coast,
clings between the rocks, a dazzling spider;
the livid wound on the mountain glistens;
a handful of goats becomes a flock of stones;
the sun lays its gold egg upon the sea.
All is god.
A broken statue,
columns gnawed by the light,
ruins alive in a world of death in life!
How bold is that assertion "All is god," and how justified by the imaginative re-creations of these ruins and resurrections. It makes me want to write a poem about Singapore, a poem that is not bitter nor ironic, but a paeon.