Octavio Paz Quotes

Writers, you know, are the beggars of Western society.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. quoted in Independent on Sunday (London, Dec. 30, 1990).
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To read a poem is to hear it with our eyes; to hear it is to see it with our ears.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. "Recapitulations," Alternating Current (1967).
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The rebel, unlike the revolutionary, does not attempt to undermine the social order as a whole. The rebel attacks the tyrant; the revolutionary attacks tyranny. I grant that there are rebels who regard all governments as tyrannical; nonetheless, it is abuses that they condemn, not power itself. Revolutionaries, on the other hand, are convinced that the evil does not lie in the excesses of the constituted order but in order itself. The difference, it seems to me, is considerable.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. "Revolt, Revolution, Rebellion," Alternating Current, Viking (1973).
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The religion of art, like the religion of politics, was born from the ruins of Christianity. Art inherited from the old religion the power of consecrating things and endowing them with a sort of eternity; museums are our temples, and the objects displayed in them are beyond history. Politics—or more precisely, Revolution—co-opted the other function of religion: changing human beings and society. Art was an asceticism, a spiritual heroism; Revolution was the construction of a universal church.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. "Seeing and Using: Art and Craftsmanship," Convergences: Essays on Art and Literature, Harcourt Brace (1987).
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Made by hand, the craft object bears the fingerprints, real or metaphorical, of the person who fashioned it. These fingerprints are not the equivalent of the artist's signature, for they are not a name. Nor are they a mark or a brand. They are a sign: the almost invisible scar commemorating our original brotherhood or sisterhood. Made by hand, the craft object is made for hands. Not only can we see it, we can also finger it, feel it. We see the work of art but we do not touch it. The religious taboo that forbids us to touch saints—"you'll burn your hands if you touch the Tabernacle," we were told as children—also applies to paintings and sculpture.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. "Seeing and Using: Art and Craftsmanship," Convergences: Essays on Art and Literature, Harcourt Brace (1987).
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The poetic process is not different from conjuration, enchantment, and other magical procedures. And the poet's attitude is very similar to the magician's. Both utilize the principle of analogy; both act for utilitarian and immediate ends: they do not ask themselves what language or nature is, but use them for their own purposes. It is not difficult to add another trait: magicians and poets, unlike philosophers, technicians, and sages, draw their powers from themselves. To do their work it is not enough for them to possess a body of knowledge, as is the case with a physicist or a chauffeur. Every magical operation requires an inner force, achieved by a painful effort at purification.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. The Bow and the Lyre, ch. 4 (1967, trans. 1973).
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Prose is a tardy genre, offspring of thought's distrust of the natural tendencies of language. Poetry belongs to all epochs: it is man's natural form of expression. There are no peoples without poetry; there are some without prose. Therefore, it can be said that prose is not a form of expression inherent in society, while the existence of a society without songs, myths, or other poetic expressions is inconceivable. Poetry knows nothing of progress or evolution, and its beginnings and its end are confused with those of language. Prose, which is primordially a tool of criticism and analysis, requires a slow maturation and is only produced after a long series of efforts aimed at taming speech.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. The Bow and the Lyre, ch. 4 (1967, trans. 1973).
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In the face of the modern crisis, both poets turn their eyes to the past and actualize history: every epoch is this epoch. But Eliot actually desires to return and reinstall Christ; Pound uses the past as another form of the future. Having lost the center of his world, he throws himself into every adventure. Unlike Eliot, he is a reactionary, not a conservative. In fact, Pound has never ceased to be a North American and he is the legitimate descendent of Whitman, this is, he is a son of utopia.... Pound's erudition is a banquet after an expedition of conquest; Eliot's, the search for a standard that will give meaning to history, stability to movement. Pound accumulates quotations with the heroic air of one who robs graves; Eliot orders them as if he were hauling in the relics of a shipwreck. Pound's work is a journey that perhaps leads us nowhere; Eliot's, a search for the ancestral home.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. The Bow and the Lyre, ch. 4 (1967, trans. 1973).
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The poetic experience, like the religious one, is a mortal leap: a change of nature that is also a return to our original nature. Hidden by the profane or prosaic life, our being suddenly remembers its lost identity; and then that "other" that we are appears, emerges. Poetry and religion are a revelation. But the poetic word dispenses with divine authority. The image is sustained by itself, without the need to appeal to rational demon stration or to the protection of a supernatural power: it is the revelation of himself that man makes to himself. The religious word, on the contrary, aims to reveal a mystery that is, by definition, alien to us.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. The Bow and the Lyre, ch. 7 (1967, trans. 1973).
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Technology is not an image of the world but a way of operating on reality. The nihilism of technology lies not only in the fact that it is the most perfect expression of the will to power ... but also in the fact that it lacks meaning.
Octavio Paz (b. 1914), Mexican poet. "The Channel and the Signs," Alternating Current (1967).
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