Paz on Poetry & Society

Today, Mar. 31, marks the centennial anniversary of Octavio Paz’s birth. Paz was not only a Mexico City-born poet considered by many to be the greatest in that country’s history, he was also one of the greatest poets of the last century, in any language. In honor of such a talent, here’s an excerpt from Paz’s insightful interview with the Paris Review in 1990 in which he talks about the importance of poetry in the modern age:

[P]oetry today is like a secret cult whose rites are celebrated in the catacombs, on the fringes of society. Consumer society and commercial publishers pay little attention to poetry. I think this is one of society’s diseases. I don’t think we can have a good society if we don’t also have good poetry. I’m sure of it. …¬†Free-market societies produce unjust and very stupid societies. I don’t believe that the production and consumption of things can be the meaning of human life. All great religions and philosophies say that human beings are more than producers and consumers. We cannot reduce our lives to economics. If a society without social justice is not a good society, a society without poetry is a society without dreams, without words, and most importantly, without that bridge between one person and another that poetry is. We are different from the other animals because we can talk, and the supreme form of language is poetry. If society abolishes poetry it commits spiritual suicide.

Celebrate the birth of an outstanding artist by reading his classic work, “Piedra de sol” (via Wikipedia — I know).