Through Galleries of Sound | Ann Whittaker

 San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, October 2017

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, October 2017

El día  El árbol  |  The day The tree

Octavio Paz was a lucky find for me. I wanted to learn Spanish, and so, of course, my favorite way to first encounter a language is through its poetry. I was already a bit in love with Pablo Neruda (because who isn’t) and his Aquí Vivimos (This Is Where We Live), but I wanted something next––who comes after Pablo Neruda? I was lucky. I took a risk and went to my local bookstore and looked through the poetry shelves. My eyes stopped at Octavio Paz, The Collected Poems 1957-1987. 

I skimmed enough to know that I was smitten, but stopped myself from diving in too quickly before I could meet with my brother. I knew I needed to hear Octavio Paz before I read Octavio Paz. My brother could read it aloud for me in his lyrical Spanish. We sat on his front porch, motorcycles driving by with their rumbling mufflers now and again as he slowly read for me, “Al confín/yesca/del espacio calcinado/la ascensión amarilla/del arbor…”

El presente es perpetuo  |  The present is motionless

I had stepped into a gallery of sound that I never wanted to exit. I wanted to explore every syllable, every meter, every cadence. 

It was no surprise to me that this man had so much impact, so much vision, so much passion for humanity and justice––and so he brought beauty to this broken world that he new politically, personally, socially, academically, and poetically. 

El trueno anda por el llano / el cielo esconde todos sus pájaros
Thunder crosses the plain / the sky hides all its birds

Linguists will tell you that language is a product of its geography–land and words and sounds are intimately related, weaving a musical and cultural tapestry distinct and ever-evolving. Slowly, a geography changes as rivers carve canyons and wind erodes mountains. Gradually, a language adapts to inventions, the constant flow of human migration, and relationships from person to person. Octavio Paz used a poetic language to explore the geography of many lives.

Poetry is an exploration of the human condition and the rhythms and patterns we are drawn to. Octavio Paz showed me that this is so–he opened up galleries of sound, curated words and rhythms that gave my human experience a simultaneous expansiveness and intimacy. 

 San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, October 2017

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, October 2017

 Las Trancas, Guanajuato, October 2017

Las Trancas, Guanajuato, October 2017

I travel my way through galleries of sound,
I flow among echoing presences,
I cross transparencies as though I were blind,
a reflection erases me, I'm born in another,
oh forest of pillars that are enchanted,
through arches of light I travel into
the corridors of a diaphanous fall

voy entre galerías de sonidos,
fluyo entre las presencias resonantes,

voy por la transparencias como un ciego,
un refeljo me borra, nazco en otro,
oh bosque de pilares encantados,
bajo los arcos de la luz penetro
los corredores de un otoño diáfano


Piedra de Sol