The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957-1987
In 1984, New Directions published Octavio Paz’s SELECTED POEMS, a generous gathering that spanned his career, though with an emphasis on major works from the mid-1950’s to the mid-1970’s. This massive bilingual volume provides more extensive-- indeed, virtually complete--coverage of that period; also included is ARBOL ADENTRO (A TREE WITHIN), Paz’s first new book of poetry in ten years; as editor and primary translator Eliot Weinberger notes, “It appears in translation simultaneous to its Spanish edition, perhaps a ’first’ for a book of foreign poetry.”
A TREE WITHIN--the text of which occupies about 150 pages--is in itself sufficient reason to acquire this volume. The opening section consists of short poems, many of them dealing with the nature of poetry. In their rich diversity of explicit reference and allusion, tone and style (from antiquity to the present; from China, Japan, and India to the West), they attest the responsive range of Paz’s intelligence, the breadth of his sympathy. This opening section, however, is but an introduction: As the book progresses, it deepens, centering on the poet’s encounters with time, memory, and death.
Much romance attaches to the poetry of youthful brilliance (John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Arthur Rimbaud), but there is a different kind of authority that rests on a lifetime’s experience and mastery of craft. Such has been Paz’s achievement with VUELTA (RETURN), PASADO EN CLARO (A DRAFT OF SHADOWS), and now A TREE WITHIN.