Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rediscovering Octavio Paz

One of the most enjoyable musical experiences I had with the Knox College Choir was singing Eric Whitacre's choral works. They're very contemporary tone poems that typically draw from preexisting texts. Frequently, Whitacre found inspiration in the poems of Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

When I was at Knox, I remember searching for a Paz collection in the library, and I was fortunate enough to find a bilingual collection (Paz wrote exclusively in Spanish). I'm usually not a poetry person. I don't understand it. But something about Paz clicked for me, and there was one poem in particular that struck me. It was beautiful in so many ways. Its images were beautiful. Its language was beautiful. And it was heartbreakingly sad.

This poem fell by the wayside until I saw the Knox College Choir in Castello d'Empuries this past Sunday and bought the CD from their 2006 Spain tour. Laura dipped into the Whitacre well again, and Whitacre dipped into the Paz well, also. Track #11 is the poem I found back in Galesburg, "A Boy And A Girl."

[Los Novios]

Tendidos en la yerba
una muchacha y un muchacho.
Comen naranjas, cambian besos
como las olas cambian sus espumas.

Tendido en la playa
una muchacha y un muchacho.
Comen limones, cambian besos
como las nubes cambian espumas.

Tendidos bajo tierra
una muchacha y un muchacho.
No dicen nada, no se besan,
cambian silencio por silencio.

[A Boy and a Girl]

Stretched out on the grass,
a boy and a girl.
Savoring their oranges, giving their kisses
like waves exchanging foam.

Stretched out on the beach,
a boy and a girl.
Savoring their limes, giving their kisses
like clouds exchanging foam.

Stretched out underground,
a boy and a girl.
Saying nothing, never kissing,
giving silence for silence.

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