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This report is taken from PN Review 223, Volume 41 Number 5, May - June 2015.

Octavio Paz: Aristocrat Anthony Rudolf
There are many kinds of poets: ranging from those who write nothing or virtually nothing except poetry – such as Octavio’s friend Alberto de Lacerda – to those who have a large parallel oeuvre in prose, such as another friend of Octavio’s, Yves Bonnefoy, whose prose books include art history, literary criticism and poetics of the highest quality, or Hardy and Lawrence who were both great novelists. Octavio was the polar opposite of a pure lyric poet like Alberto. What’s more, his prodigious output stretches beyond Bonnefoy’s highly literary prose work, to include journalism, politics and that critically important book of national self-understanding, The Labyrinth of Solitude.

Octavio was a key figure in the hero-­worshipping days of my formation, that is to say, hero-worshipping of living writers whom one has met in the flesh, not Coleridge or Racine. Our first encounter was in 1967 at the inaugural Poetry International, where I was reading my Bonnefoy translations. And it was Yves who, not for the first or last time, introduced me to a person who became a friend and, in this case, also a hero or mentor or, better still, tutelary spirit. (At the hotel where the poets were staying, I witnessed Octavio and Neruda shake hands after their famous thirty-year rift.)

I find direct traces of Octavio in some of my poems and in certain aspects of what I hope can be called my prose style, but the important point for me, as someone who believes in contributing to the life of the polis, is Octavio’s ...


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