Themes and Meanings

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“Same Time” is a showpiece for several of Paz’s favorite motifs: seeing, writing, and time. The tradition of the poet-seer, an individual with special ways of seeing, goes back to the European Romantics. Paz’s version of it is shaped by his experiences in Mexico and India and his vast knowledge of Western literature.

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The recurring moment of transparency in Paz’s poetry refers to those seconds in which his vision allows him to see beauty in great detail and glimpse extraordinary relationships between words and objects. It is unsummoned, as he says, but perhaps triggered by another word (“alabaster”) or object (“cloud”). With this opened eye, the poet explores beauty, his gaze “sustains loveliness” and seems to effect a change upon his notion of time. Moments of transparency for Paz are not unlike those moments of epiphany mentioned by James Joyce and explored in loving detail by Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez.

Transparency provides the optimum moment in which poetry can crystallize. The “thin unsummoned transparency” that appears in the middle of the poem facilitates creativity, a fact that the poet has long recognized (“You said”) but not always adhered to (“You made nothing”). In these states of lucidity in which light (and here one must think of the strong sunlight of his native Mexico) passes through all barriers, the poet can build castles out of syllables.

The heightened sense of awareness that Paz calls transparency bestows on the moment a sense of presence. This intuition of otherness is not memory, the poet carefully notes, but rather it is as if time had acquired a new dimension. Within the relentless chronological nature of the time that defines people may be another time in which the phenomena of the world are weightless (like the bee that does not cast a shadow in the Jorge Luis Borges story “The Secret Miracle”), and the time neatly divided into past, present, and future melds into something indivisible. In such an instant, one is spared the need to talk about time passing: “Perhaps time doesn’t pass/ images of time pass.” T. S. Eliot, whose poetry deeply impressed Paz, begins “Burnt Norton,” the first of the Four Quartets (1943), with a similar meditation on the nature of time that includes the lines: “If all time is eternally present/ All time is unredeemable.”

There is no need to reclaim time if such visions can be granted to poets and their readers. “Same Time” points to this moment: “It is not the windit is not memoryit is transparency.”

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