Literary ruminations – Octavio Paz’s ‘La calle’

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It’s Friday afternoon and I would like to read something so very good, so very exciting and interesting and ‘oomph’! After a week of budgets, strategies and students, I’m ready for a bit of intellectual pampering.
And nothing else will do – at least for me – but Octavio Paz.

I have to say, I’m in awe of the man. His way with words touches my heart and mind the way very few things do these days. ‘Piedra de sol’, ‘Blanco’, ‘Himno entre ruinas’ – I met them when I started my PhD and they have become part of my family.

Years ago, I gave my students ‘La calle’ – a short vignette of Paz’s surreal take on the world. Written in plain language, without flowery imagery or complicated sentences, the poem transformed postmodern postpunk rebels into worshippers at the Master’s feet. What makes shivers run up your spine when you read:

y doy vueltas y vueltas en esquinas
que dan siempre a la calle
donde nadie me espera ni me sigue…

The staccato of ‘d’ across the lines is juxtaposed by the shrillness of ‘i’/’y’; ‘l’ and ‘ll’ make your feet slip; ‘s’ is whistling like the wind in an abandonded town – are you scared yet? Do you want to wake up?

This poem is in the ‘Puerta Condenada’ section of ‘Libertad bajo palabra’ (the 1960 edition).

Anyone else enjoying a Paz moment?

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