Happy Birthday, Octavio Paz

photo from nobelprize.org

photo from nobelprize.org

On Monday April 20 1998, I was sitting in a classroom, waiting for my teacher,

my book of Octavio Paz’s poetry on my desk.

Our teacher had asked us to read some of Paz’s poems for class, and I was looking forward to learning more about them and more about the poet and essayist in general.

“You may already have heard this in the news,” my teacher began, “but Octavio Paz passed away yesterday.”

“I thought we could have a moment of silence in his honor,” he continued, “as we are here to explore the beauty of his words and his contribution to literature.”

And so we did.

Today, March 31, is Octavio Paz’s birthday (he would have been 99).

So I thought I would take a moment to honor his words once again.

And perhaps to remind myself of that special moment in a classroom many years ago.

“Entre lo que veo y lo que digo” by Octavio Paz

    A Roman Jakobson


Entre lo que veo y digo

entre lo que digo y callo,

entre lo que callo y sueño,

entre lo que sueño y olvido,

la poesía.

Se desliza

entre el sì y el no:


lo que callo,


lo que digo,


lo que olvido.

No es un decir:

es un hacer.

Es un hacer

que es un decir.

La poesía

se dice y se oye:

es real.

Y apenas digo

es real,

se disipa.

¿Así es mas real?


Idea palpable,



la poesía

va y viene

entre lo que es

y lo que no es.

Teje reflejos

y los desteje.

La poesía

siembra ojos en la página,

siembra calabra en los ojos.

Los ojos hablan,

las calabra miran,

las miradas piensan.


los pensamientos,


lo que decimos,


el cuerpo de la idea.

Los ojos

se sierra,

las palabras se abren.

“Between what I see and what I say”

for Roman Jakobson


Between what  I see and what I say,

between  what I say and what I keep silent,

between what I keep silent and what I dream,

between what I dream and what I forget:


It slips

between yes and no,


what I keep silent,

keeps silent

what I say,


what I forget.

It is not speech:

it is an act

of speech.


speaks and listens:

it is real.

And as soon as I say

it is real,

it vanishes.

Is it then more real ?


Tangible idea,




comes and goes

between what is

and what is not.

It weaves

and unweaves reflections.


scatters eyes on a page,

scatters words on our eyes.

Eyes speak,

words look,

looks think.

To hear



what we say,


the body of an idea.

Eyes close,

the words open.

(from Arbol AdentroA Tree Within – translated by Eliot Weinberger; the original poem is formatted differently but, unfortunately, I lost the formatting when I published this post so it’s worth having a look at the original when you get a chance)