Of Politics and Poetry | Jennifer Pritchard


I discovered Octavio Paz while exploring Mexican poetry for a project I was doing in Mexico.  His paradoxical poem 'Between Going and Staying' perfectly struck the sentiments of the moment.  I have an affinity for Mexican people and culture - I have for as long as I can remember.  I did not want to leave on that particular day at the close of our trip and, as Mr. Paz says so eloquently, “I stay and go:  I am a pause.”

Returning home, curiosity peaked, I began delving into his work, his life.  As I do with any poetic discovery,  I mentioned it to Ann.  Perhaps it was coincidence, but I don’t think so.   She was beyond familiar with his poetry.   And so we entered into the moment I love so much… the expansive one, the one where we grow and share, together,  each coming out better for the experience.   It is the explorer's way.   This journey inspired by Octavio Paz.

I am a fan of the juxtaposition of his words in the work I have read thus far. In them I find paradox and polarity  - guiding principles of our project. 

Between now and now,

between I am and you are,

the word bridge.

This, I think, is the root of it.  Balance.  Finding the middle.  Building the bridge.  Spanning the gap.   I read more.


“There can be no society without poetry, but society can never be realized as poetry, it is never poetic. Sometimes the two terms seek to break apart. They cannot.”

The paradox of poetry.  The paradox of this time - our time.   The paradox of what I know and love of Mexico:  the culture, the people, juxtaposed against this administration's view.  My heart hurts.  I read more.

I read of the man.  He embodied the explorer’s spirit.  A true global citizen passionate about his beliefs, anthropological in his search for his truth and the lack of ego needed to change position in his final years.  I relate to the wisdom that comes with time and experience mixed with the opportunity to reconsider the passions of our youth.  The idea of continuing to grow and expand in a crescendo to the end of our time.  And I get lost in the words.

In 1990 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for “impassioned writing with wide horizons, characterized by sensuous intelligence and humanistic integrity”.  Ironically this was the first such award after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  My mind immediately travels to talk of another wall.

Why must we repeat the same lessons?    Have we not the wisdom of history?  When does reason win over reaction and open minds prevail?   

Wisdom lies neither in fixity nor in change, but in the dialectic between the two.

Where is  the dialog?

I find Octavio Paz to be a relevant, luminous, intellect with a parallel and analogous insight to this time -our time.  I look forward to a quiet moment to read The Labyrinth of Solitude,  his discourse on Mexico’s search for identity,  for itself and in its relationship to the US.  And to learn from Ann how to be a better student of poetry - lessons we will begin in November.

But for the time, on this trip, I will revel in what I know of Mexico and blend with the wind on the streets of San Miguel de Allende.

I think we all have our own personality, unique and distinctive, and at the same time, I think that our own unique and distinctive personality blends with the wind, with the footsteps in the street, with the noises around the corner, and with the silence of memory, which is the great producer of ghosts.