Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power abandonment.
An operation capable of changing the world,
poetic activity is revolutionary by nature;
a spiritual exercise, it is a means of interior liberation.
Poetry reveals this world;
it creates another.
Bread of the chosen; accursed food.
It isolates; it unites.
Invitation to the journey; return to the homeland.
Inspiration, respiration, muscular exercise.
Prayer to the void, dialogue with absence: tedium, anguish, and despair nourish it.
Prayer, litany, epiphany, presence.
Exorcism, conjuration, magic.
Sublimation, compensation, condensation of the unconscious.
Historic expression of races, nations, classes.
It denies history: at its core all objective conflicts are resolved and man at last acquires
of being something more
than a transient.
Experience, feeling, emotion, intuition, undirected thought.
Result of chance; fruit of calculation. Art of speaking
in a superior way;
primitive language. Obedience
to rules; creation of others. Imitation
of the ancients, copy of the real, copy of a copy of the
Idea. Madness, ecstasy, logos.
Return to childhood, coitus, nostalgia for paradise, for hell, for limbo.
Play, work, ascetic activity, Confession. Innate experience.
Vision, music, symbol.
Analogy: the poem is a shell that echoes the music of the world,
and meters and rhymes are merely correspondences, echoes,
of the universal harmony.
Teaching, morality, example, revelation, dance, dialogue, monologue.
Voice of the people,
language of the chosen,
word of the solitary.
Pure and impure, sacred and damned, popular and of the minority,
c ollective and personal, naked and clothed,
spoken, painted, written, it shows every face
but there are those who say it has no face: the poem is a mask that hides the void —
a beautiful proof of the superfluous grandeur
of every human work!
Octavio Paz: The Bow and the Lyre, paragraph 1 (trs. Ruth L.C. Simms, University of Texas Press, 1987)