The New York Times Book Review
Figures and Figurationsby Marie Jose Paz, Octavio Paz, Eliot Weinberger (Translator)
A beautiful gift edition of Figures & Figurations: the collaboration between the Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz and his wife of thirty years, the artist Marie José Paz.Figures & Figurations, one of the last works completed by the great late Mexican poet Octavio Paz before his death in 1998, is a stunning collaborative project with his wife, the
A beautiful gift edition of Figures & Figurations: the collaboration between the Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz and his wife of thirty years, the artist Marie José Paz.Figures & Figurations, one of the last works completed by the great late Mexican poet Octavio Paz before his death in 1998, is a stunning collaborative project with his wife, the acclaimed artist Marie José Paz. In response to ten of her collage-constructions, he wrote ten new short poems; she in turn created two new artworks in response to two of his earlier poems. In addition to the gorgeous full-color art, this bilingual edition features Eliot Weinberger's excellent translations, as well as an essay by Octavio Paz on Marie José Paz's work, "The Whitecaps of Time," in which he relates how her friendship with Joseph Cornell became a stimulus for her assemblages and how she was further spurred on by other friends, such as the linguist Roman Jakobson and Elizabeth Bishop. "These objects sometimes surprise us," he writes, "and sometimes make us dream or laugh (humor is one of the poles of her work). Signs that invite us on a motionless voyage of fantasy, bridges to the indefinitely small or galactic distances, windows that open on a nowhere. Marie José's art is a dialog between here and there." An illuminating afterword by the eminent French poet Yves Bonnefoy completes this edition.
The New York Times Book Review
Read an Excerpt
Figures & Figurations
By OCTAVIO PAZ MARIE JOSÉ PAZ
A NEW DIRECTIONS BOOKCopyright © 2002 Marie José Paz, Heir of Octavio Paz
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCalm Sand-clock moon: night empties out, the hour is lit. Your Face
A hand-whose hand?- blue skin, red nails, holding a palette. I want to be a face, says the palette. And the hand turns it into a mirror, and in the mirror, your eyes, and your eyes become trees, hills, clouds. A path winds through the double row of insinuations and allusions. On this path I reach your mouth, fountain of truths just born. The Brushes Awake Creature of wind, whirlwind of whitecaps, a dragon between floating clouds and a ball of fire spinning in a sky that looks like earth. Little dragon, you lope through a dream of sleeping brushes, barely a puff of air that half-opens eyelids. The box unfolds its wings and begins to fly. Imperial Fireplace Flames have turned to stone and the stones a group of pyramids, quiet geometry beneath an unmarked sky. Two sphinx-paws defend it, two recumbent lions watch over, guarding the portico, two other lions, winged, dressed in the aquatic arms of the Nile. A double emblem of desert and water, sterile powers that joined, procreate. Little monument of fire in a corner of the room. Egypt burning, encrusted on the façade of winter. Cipher Wall tattooed with signs like the body of the starry night. Up there,neither clouds nor stars: an architecture of wood, arcades and niches populated by echoes. Horizon of petrified time: each stamp is a cipher, each cipher a window, each window a glance that drills through the days and unveils its face: not of yesterday or tomorrow, but of now. The windows are stamps and the stamps are omens turned into fortunes: The couple meets and entwines. She and he are a living stamp, the undressed cipher of the daily beginning again. India These letters and sinuous lines that entwine and separate on the paper are like the palm of a hand: are they India? And the paw of tawny metal -forged by the sun, chilled by the moon- its claws squeezing a hard glass ball and the iridescent sphere, the thousands of candles, burning and shining, that the faithful launch each night, floating on the lakes and rivers: are they a prophecy, a riddle, the memory of an encounter, the scattered signs of fortune? -They are the scepter of chance, left at the foot of the tree of time by the king of this world. Enigma We are born from a question, each one of our acts is a question, our years are a forest of questions, you are a question and I am another, God is the hand that tirelessly writes universes in the form of questions. Door What's behind that door? Don't knock, don't ask, no one answers, nothing can open it, not the picklock of curiosity nor the little key of reason, nor the hammer of impatience. Don't talk, don't ask, come closer, put your ear to it, can't you hear it breathing? There, on the other side, someone like you asks: what's behind that door?
Excerpted from Figures & Figurations by OCTAVIO PAZ MARIE JOSÉ PAZ Copyright © 2002 by Marie José Paz, Heir of Octavio Paz
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Marie José Paz began working as an artist in 1972, encouraged by artists like Joseph Cornell, Mark Strand and Robert Gardner. She was Octavio Paz's loving companion for more than thirty years.
Octavio Paz (1914-1998) was born in Mexico City. He wrote many volumes of poetry, as well as a prolific body of remarkable works of nonﬁction on subjects as varied as poetics, literary and art criticism, politics, culture, and Mexican history. He was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 1977, the Cervantes Prize in 1981, and the Neustadt Prize in 1982. He received the German Peace Prize for his political work, and finally, the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990.
Eliot Weinberger is an essayist and translator, the editor of The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry, and the series editor of Calligrams: Writings from and on China (New York Review Books and Chinese University of Hong Kong Press). He lives in New York City.
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