(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

In Blanco, Paz experiments with poetry as a visual and oral art form. The poem was first published on one continuous sheet of paper, using various typefaces and two colors of ink. A single column of text alternates with two parallel columns. These in turn are either spaced separately or joined together and are only distinguishable from each other by their contrasting typefaces. Paz arranges the poetic text in such a way that the words are able to interact with each other. On the theory that the poet should not manipulate language, he denies his ego any role in the creative process. Paz applies the Tantric tradition to the poetic text. The words set free on the page, surrounded by space, assume a life of their own. They are erotic objects free to attract, repel, and unite with each other. The use of different columns of text running separately or parallel to each other allows many alternative readings. This one long poem has fourteen texts that can be read separately or in different combinations.

The poem begins with a wordplay about the origins of language before its corruption by history. The text of the single central column deals with the poet’s labor to bring forth poetry. The lamp represents the poet’s alertness. He waits patiently for language to rise into his consciousness. When it does so, the words of the poem flow forth, and the poet dissolves with his mistress in an experience of pure language.

The double column is a love poem. The two columns separate and join together, opening and closing like legs in imitation of Tantric texts. The poet penetrates his beloved. He fertilizes words, and they ascend the stalk that produces the flow of poetry in the central column.

The influences of Mallarmé and Tantric Buddhism are most evident in this long and very complex poem. Blanco likens writing poetry to making love. Paz follows Mallarmé’s position that living language is carnal and that words have flesh like a woman. The graphic layout of the poem and the use of white space between the words encourage the reader to explore the infinite possibilities in words. In Tantric Buddhism, erotic love serves as a means to gain spiritual liberation. In Blanco, erotic love and the inception of poetry are aspects of the same experience of transcending time and language.

Blanco Bibliography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bloom, Harold, ed. Octavio Paz. New York: Chelsea House, 2001.

Fein, John M. Toward Octavio Paz: A Reading of His Major Poems. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1986.

Ivask, Ivar, ed. The Perpetual Present: The Prose and Poetry of Octavio Paz. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1973.

Kozlarek, Oliver. “Theodore W. Adorno and Octavio Paz: Two Visions of Modernity.” Culture, Theory and Critique 47, no. 1 (April, 2006): 39-52.

MacAdam, Alfred. “Octavio Paz: The Art of Poetry XLII.” Paris Review 33, no. 119 (Summer, 1991): 82-123.

Nugent, Robert. “Structure and Meaning in Octavio Paz’s Piedra de sol.” Kentucky Foreign Language Quarterly 13, no. 3 (1966): 138-146.

Phillips, Rachel. The Poetic Modes of Octavio Paz. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Quiroga, José. Understanding Octavio Paz. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

Wilson, Jason. Octavio Paz. Boston: Twayne, 1986.

Wilson, Jason. Octavio Paz: A Study of His Poetics. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1979.