set down, Octavio Paz will be included,nand he will stand out among the othernnames as one who deliberately fashionednhimself into this kind of poet, anman who realized there was a choice tonbe made, a position to fill.nThere was first of all the matter ofnapprenticeship. We cannot say that Paznis the disciple of any single poet in thenway that we can describe Robert Hillyernand William Meredith as disciples ofnRobert Frost. Paz took the whole modernistnhagiology as his example and hasntried to make personal acquaintancenwith as many of these figures as possible.nIn dedications to poems and innincidental remarks in critical essays, wenfind the names of Pierre Reverdy, LuisnCernuda, Andre Breton, John Cage,nRoger Caillois, Robert Motherwell,nVasko Popa, Albert Camus, and many,nmany others — even Robert Frost, whonseems almost bumptiously out of placenin this aggregate of intellectual fashionnplates. Paz studied the works of thesenartists, found opportunity to meetnthem, questioned them, and took fromnthem all that he profitably could.nIn a North American poet this procedurenmight well appear sycophantic,nbut to Paz it was necessary. He foundnMexico a culturally backward country,nhe regarded himself in his earliest yearsnas something of an outsider, and he sawnthe modernist tradition as a set ofndoctrines for which he could serve asnevangelist. He need not — indeed, hendid not — espouse all the ideas he importednand explained, but he was attractednto a great many of them and hasnenjoyed cheerfiil flirtation with scores ofnconcepts which contradict one another.nPaz is a Don Juan of the intellect. Hisnthought is articulate, passionate, andnextremely eclectic, but it is not profound;nhe takes such sensual enjoymentnof so many ideas that he cannot bear tonform a lasting relationship with any ofnthem.nRomanticism, socialism, Freudianism,nsurrealism, Buddhism, Hinduism,ncubism, Jungian archetypes, regionalism,ndada, expressionism, haiku,nrenga, ballad, folk song, pun, rhyme,nfree verse, Donne, Gongora, Whitman,nSade, Quevedo, even Samuel Johnsonn(whom he wildly misunderstands)—allnthese impulses, tendencies, isms, itches,nnotions, whims, motives, concepts, tics,nand frotheries have received at leastnpassing attention from Paz. He hasnproclaimed and explained and declaimednand disowned and denied andndecried all of these and many morenbesides. If 16th-century euphuismnshowed its flowery countenance uponnthe earth once again, Paz would have anweekend fling with it.nSuch ideological philandering marksnPaz as lacking the highest philosophicalnseriousness, but at the same time itnhelps to make him a powerful andnvaluable artist. He is a better surrealistnpoet for not submitting to doctrinairensurrealist policy as pronounced bynAndre Breton or Max Ernst or anyonenelse. When he is a nationalist poet, he isnmore deeply regional for placing hisnwork directly in the tradition of thenEuropean avant-garde. When he is anconcrete poet, making poems in whichnthe most apparent interest is visualndesign, he gives these productions pointnby rooting them in the peculiarities ofnthe Spanish language. While it is truenthat he has deliberately searched out thenmost fashionable of intellectual fads ofnour time, he has been able to turn all ofnthem to personal expression and tonnobler purpose than they ordinarilynenjoy. Materiem superabat opus, yes;nbut in Paz what the artistry transcendsnis not the materials but the mannerismsnthat usually accompany a certainnstyle.nIn a poet so many-minded it isnimpossible to find lines that might bendesignated as “typical,” but perhapsnthis stanza from “One Day AmongnMany” can give a characteristic impressionnof Paz’s surrealism:nThe cars are nostalgic for grassnTowers walkntime has stoppednA pair of eyes won’t leave menalonenthey are an agate beach in thencalcined southnthey are the sea between rocksnthe color of ragenthey are the fury of June andnits shawl of bees.nThere is nothing finally distinctivenabout these phrases, which could asneasily have been written by Breton ornPaul Eluard or Rene Char; this is thencommon idiom of surrealists, interchangeablenamong poets as well asnamong poems.nBut Paz has seen through this style sonthoroughly that he has produced, innnn”This and This and This,” a tellingnparody. The poem begins, as surrealistnpoems so often do, with a portentouslynself-gratulatory overstatement, “Surrealismnhas been the apple of fire onnthe tree of syntax.” A long litany of absurdnand bombastic claims follows —n”Surrealism has been the cardboardncrown on the headless critic and thenviper that slips between the legs of thencritic’s wife” — and climaxes in a hystericalnoverview of modern history:n”Surrealism has been the seven-leaguenboots of those who escaped from thenprisons of dialectical reason and TomnThumb’s hatchet that severs the knotsnof the poisonous vines that cover thenwalls of the petrified revolutions of thenTwentieth Century.” When surrealistnpoetry begins to sound like a WoodynAllen character trying to write a surrealistnpoem, we know the jig is up.nNot that the possibilities of surrealistnstyle are exhausted for Paz, not at all.nHis work is always going to be markednin some degree by fantastic hyperbole.nBut surrealism is to be counted asnmerely one more style, one more usefulnweapon in the poet’s varied arsenal; fornPaz it is neither a religion nor a politics,nas it was for those figures of the 1930’snwho now look so quaint. I am thinkingnof the early Luis Bunuel, the earlynMarcel Duchamp, the early Louis Aragon;nI am thinking of “Un ChiennAndalou.”nBut Paz can remember the revolutionariesnof that period, political andnartistic, in darker terms. He speaks ofnthem in a poem of the 1970’s, “SannIldefonso nocturne”:nGood, we wanted good:nto set the world right.nWe didn’t lack integrity:nwe lacked humility.nWhat we wanted was notninnocently wanted.nPrecepts and concepts,nthe arrogance ofntheologians,nto beat with a cross,nto institute withnblood. . . .nSomenbecame secretaries to thensecretarynto the General Secretary of thenInferno.nRagenAPRIl 19881 29n