News & Notes
Paz . To mark the 108th anniversary of Octavio Paz’s birth, the legendary Colegio San Ildefonso in Mexico City (where the great muralists, Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco in particular, painted some of their most ambitious works) has dedicated a handsome memorial fountain designed by the Mexican artist Vicente Rojo (who died last year). The work celebrates Paz and his wife Marie-José, who died in 2018.
Paz and Rojo admired one another’s work, and the sharp, emphatic red (Rojo) sculptural swirl evokes the ground-breaking Poetry in Movement anthology which Paz edited with Ali Chumacero, José Emilio Pacheco and Homero Aridjis in 1966, a book that revealed the wealth of Mexican poetry in the previous half century. The ashes of the poet and his wife are preserved within the memorial. On a granite surface the opening words of Paz’s most famous poem Piedra de Sol (Sun Stone) appear:
Un alto surtidor que el viento arquea, un árbol bien plantado mas danzante, un caminar de río que se curva, avanza, retrocede, da un rodeo y llega siempre.
Vicente Rojo worked with Paz from 1968. It was a period of political definition, when after the student massacre at Tlatelolco Paz renounced his ambassadorship to India and cut himself free of the corrupted and repressive establishment of the time.
Among other memorable collaborations were the Discos Visuales where the reader can reconfigure the words by turning visual discs. Paz provided the words, Rojo the movement and the reader’s engagement that goes beyond reading static text, becoming part of the creative process. They also collaborated on the handsome unfolding codex-text of Blanco, the Topoemas and the Marcel Duchamp box of tricks which was at once a serious and entertaining act of play, in and between forms, objects and languages.
San Ildefonso is an ideal place for the celebratory memorial – an historic building with a long history, open to the public, where the poet can be celebrated every day and by new generations. Paz wrote his famous Nocturno a San Ildefonso remembering his student days in the heart of the city.
An uncomfortable irony: the poet’s and his wife’s ashes were deposited in the memorial by the wife of Mexico’s controversial populist president, as though Paz was being re-absorbed into the establishment from which he broke free in 1968.
Minhinnick . On April 22 the Hay Festival – marking its thirty-fifth birthday – announced that this year’s poetry medal was being awarded to Robert Minhinnick during the festival proceedings between 26 May and 5 June. The medal has been awarded since the 2012 Olympics which inspired them. ‘With Athena as muse, silversmith Christopher Hamilton crafts them locally,’ the organisers said. ‘Robert Minhinnick is the prize-winning author of four volumes of essays, more than a dozen volumes of poetry, and four works of fiction. He has also edited a book on the environment in Wales, has written for television, and provided columns for The Western Mail and Planet. He is the co-founder of the environmental organisation Sustainable Wales, and was formerly the editor of Poetry Wales.’
Wong May . The poet Wong May received a tenth anniversary Windham-Campbell Prize for Poetry this year. The award coincided with the publication by Carcanet of In the Same Light: 200 Tang Poems for Our Century, translations of classic poems with a ninety-eight-page Afterword, described by her editor John McAuliffe as ‘a classic meditation on the translator’s art, and the art of poetry.’ He adds, ‘Her translations’ syntax and use of the page seem to establish the poem as a single moment, suspending resolution or forward momentum, simply hanging images and lines alongside one another, so that their different notes make up one chord. Or as if the poem’s cause, what brings its lines about, is there, coming into view (almost), as each line of the poem follows on and responds to it (and its preceding line – another distinguishing aspect of these poems is how easily we hear the poem’s speech and voices as responsive).’ Other recipients of the anniversary prizes included Tsitsi Dangarembga, Zaffar Kunial and Winsome Pinnock.
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