In the early chapters of The Bow and the Lyre, Paz seeks as much common ground with his readers as possible by enumerating the attributes poetry is commonly thought to have. It is not bothersome that some of these, such as spiritual exercise and exorcism, madness and logos, are inherently contradictory. He accepts Aristotle’s broad and generic view of poetry and is careful to distinguish between poetry and poetic forms, such as sonnets, which are poems only to the extent that they have been touched by poetry. According to Paz, poetry is a use of language poised between tension (the taut string of a bow) and resolution (the strings of a lyre, the ancient symbol of Apollo as guardian of the Muses). This is not to imply that for Paz the best poetry is that which is most agreeable to the reader; rather, he is convinced that the poet’s job of using language in unusual ways, particularly through metaphor, often causes hostility, or worse, indifference, among readers. Every human being can, and often does, express ideas through metaphor. The poet, however, makes an art of subverting language, of using it in a highly original way which nevertheless evokes certain similar, though never identical, responses in readers. This causes the majority of readers to view the poet as a revolutionary and the poem itself as something suspect.
The appearance of new idiom and the declaring of archaism are indications that everyone recognizes the need for originality...
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