canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

The Passing of Octavio Paz (1914-1998) 
by Adolfo Castanon 
Mosaic Press, 2000

Reviewed by T. Anders Carson

There was something different about this collection when I picked it up. The feeling was as if I had been invited to a very exclusive eulogy reading for a departed hero. The writing is extremely fluid. I had to keep reading. Each word is placed in the emotional line in which it was received. 

The tongue went into mourning, 
other languages followed 
but no one knew how to inform 
the poems that the Poet had died. 

I feel a chill go through me when I hit those high plateaus in a poem. I feel privileged to glimpse but for an instant the sights those peaks see each tumultuous day. The raging storms and crisp air filling the sky with hope and strings of jubilation. Mr. Castanon has a reverence for Mr. Paz's work that goes beyond mere mortal realms. He even forgives him the one Mexican lust for bull-fighting. 

No, he did not like bullfights,
yet was a good matador,
Head held high before the beast
avoiding it through scornful dodging,

sinking the sword to his wrists
- elegant threat
merciful twist -
as if knowing what the bull knows.

Respect is the jagged word that sings in the poem. It is a vibrancy that shakes the foundations of even geological measurements. He refers to the Richter scale and the modest height of 3.5 it registered when Octavio Paz died. 

Young people read his books on the road,
in bus stations shaken
by clamor, by playful shouting
- birds, children - din of voices climbing the air like ivy.

The heat beats down on glass windows
the fly's rattle buzzes emphatically
young people read his poetry books as if they were studying maps.
They spell out a few lines: it's enough for them to find their way. 

The translation by Beatriz Zeller is fantastic. She has set it up for you to continue down the last translucent steps of Mr. Paz's life. She isn't afraid to show you the way. This collection has been symbiotically made with authority and resilience. There isn't any fear in the unknown present. The only sliver of fear is that 

No one knows how to inform the poems. The poet is dead.

T. Anders Carson has published poetry in The Danforth Review.







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ISSN 1494-6114. 


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