it is useful at times to figure where a poet’s thrust lies, the resultant vector, the primary determinant of all that can be poetically trusted to stand in for the poet – “a poet is primarily a poet, art for art’s sake, no?” – no – Paz ambassadored India, monkeyed around with gods and grammar – letting his guard down it seems on caste (a poet appraising a poet needs to be watchful – these days more so) – pound & eliot (& others) bamboozled along the fascist way and got called out by a precious few (not by Paz though who admired eliot; a poet appraising a poet needs to be watchful) and the imprint of that carelessness is this brilliant void of the nihilist poem, all that passes off for a poem these days (watchful yet?) – back to Paz: translated by Rukeyser; perhaps an earlier attempt by another poet to grapple with an other – perhaps those poems of his are not his but hers – maybe she was just monkeying around with him, playfully letting the gods moisten the sap of antonymnity, the dialectics of being one in relation to the other – perhaps she supped enough sap to allow him to breathe through the pores of the new poem, her poem as voice, as song, a forgiving to let the other move past – there is no resultant vector in Paz: he’s a mishmash – the aesthete would call him complicated, Wittgenstein (‘untying the knots of thinking’) would just dub him confused, and Rukeyser? well she would simply have gone about playfully monkeying around with the x’s and not x’s of Paz, an exercise in mirth that hints at the deadly seriousness of moral ambiguity.
This bleached night is a sparrow’s song
and home this
Furthest of form, article, pretense: a
grip on time we
Stray on the fictions of an undiluted
lie and streak
The night white with pain we dig these
trenches and flee
He sang until his death
singing close to his eyes
to his true life, his real life of lies;
and to remember till he died
how it had lied, his unreal life of truth
– Muriel Rukeyser’s translation of Octavio Paz’s poem
Why so loyal to a worldview which
Space are they good people? Why
In deference to so many potted stances
Have their hearts
Spoken anything true of late?
The Deer Park
Empty mountain Voices Daylight Off moss.
Here is Octavio Paz’s Spanish translation of the original Chinese translated again to English:
In the Deer Park Hermitage
No people are seen on this mountain.
Only voices, far off, are heard.
Light breaks through the branches.
Spread among the grass it shines green.