Octavio Paz


Photo: Jonn Leffmann, 1988

Octavio Paz (1914–1998) was born and raised in Mixcoac, part of present-day Mexico City. His family supported Emiliano Zapata, and after Zapata’s assassination they were forced into exile in the United States. Paz was only nineteen when he published his first collection of poetry, entitled Luna Silvestre (1933). During his long career, Paz founded the literary journals Barandal (1932) and Taller (1938) and the magazines Plural (1970) and Vuelta (1975). In 1945 he began working as a diplomat for the Mexican government in such places as Paris, Tokyo, Geneva, and Mumbai. His travels influenced much of his work, and he published many of his books while working abroad. Paz’s numerous collections of poetry include Entre la piedra y la flor (1941), Piedra de sol (1957; Eng. Sun Stone, 1991), and Renga (1972). Additionally, Paz wrote many essays, short stories, and plays, including El laberinto de la soledad (1950; Eng. The Labyrinth of Solitude, 1961), Corriente alterna (1967; Eng. Alternating Current, 1973), and La hija de Rappaccini (1956). In addition to the Neustadt Prize in 1982, Paz was awarded the 1981 Miguel de Cervantes Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990.


  • Octavio Paz
    There is a wooden house / on the plain of Oklahoma. / Each night the house turns / into an island of the Baltic Sea,  / a stone that fell from a fabled sky. / Burnished by Astrid’s glances, / ignited...
  • Octavio Paz with OU President William S. Banowsky
    In all languages there are limpid words which are like air and the water of the spirit. To express such words is always marvelous and furthermore necessary, like breathing. One such word is gracia...

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