Cover image for Figures & figurations
Figures & figurations
Paz, Octavio, 1914-1998.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Figuras y figuraciones. English
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : New Directions Book [2002]

Physical Description:
56 pages : color illustrations, 1 color map ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PQ7297.P285 F5413 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A beautiful collaboration between husband and wife. His poems to her collages, call and response from Mexico's greatest poet. Marie Jose's constructions and boxes are three-dimensional objects transfigured by her imagination and her sensibility into visual ideas, mental enigmas, bearers of bizarre and disturbing images, or of ironic perceptions. More than things to be seen, they are wings for traveling, sails for wandering and wondering, mirrors through which to cross." Octavio Paz Figures & Figurations , one of the last books completed by the late Mexican poet Octavio Paz before his death in 1998, is a collaborative effort with his wife of thirty years, the artist Marie Jose Paz. In response to ten of her collage-constructions, he wrote ten new short poems; she in turn created two new artworks in response to two of his earlier poems. Twelve poems, twelve pieces of art reproduced in full color, in a book first published in Spanish in 1999 and now appearing in a bilingual edition. In addition to the poems and collage-constructions, Figures & Figurations includes an essay by Octavio Paz on Marie Jose Paz's work, "The Whitecaps of Time," in which he relates how her friendship with Joseph Cornell became a stimulus for her assemblages and how she was further spurred on by other friends, such as Roman Jakobson and Elizabeth Bishop. "These objects sometime surprise us," he writes, "sometimes make us laugh or dream. Signs that invite us to a motionless voyage of fantasy, bridges to the infinitely small or galactic distances, windows that open onto nowhere. The art of Marie Jose is a dialogue between here and there." "

Author Notes

Octavio Paz was born in Mexico City, Mexico on March 31, 1914. In 1938, he became one of the founders of the journal, Taller. In 1943, he travelled to the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship where he became immersed in Anglo-American Modernist poetry. He entered the Mexican diplomatic service in 1945 and was sent to France then India. In 1968, he resigned from the diplomatic service in protest against the government's suppression of the student demonstrations during the Olympic Games in Mexico.

He was a poet and an essayist. His works include The Labyrinth of Solitude, The Grammarian Monkey, East Slope, and The Other Mexico. He received numerous awards including the Cervantes award in 1981, the American Neustadt Prize in 1982, and the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1990. He also worked as an editor and publisher. He founded two magazines dedicated to the arts and politics: Plural and Vuelta. He died of cancer on April 19, 1998.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Centered on 12 lovely collaborations between 1990 Nobel prize winner Octavio Paz (1914-1998) and his wife of 30 years, this book presents poems he wrote to accompany her full-color, neo-surrealist collages ("Calm," "Cloud Box," "Imperial Fireplace"). The gentle and satisfying collection is fleshed out with a section of the Spanish versions of the poems, a short prose piece by Octavio Paz, and an afterword by French poet Yves Bonnefoy. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Calm Sand-clock moon: night empties out, the hour is lit. Your Face A hand-whose hand?- blue skin, red nails, holding a palette. I want to be a face, says the palette. And the hand turns it into a mirror, and in the mirror, your eyes, and your eyes become trees, hills, clouds. A path winds through the double row of insinuations and allusions. On this path I reach your mouth, fountain of truths just born. The Brushes Awake Creature of wind, whirlwind of whitecaps, a dragon between floating clouds and a ball of fire spinning in a sky that looks like earth. Little dragon, you lope through a dream of sleeping brushes, barely a puff of air that half-opens eyelids. The box unfolds its wings and begins to fly. Imperial Fireplace Flames have turned to stone and the stones a group of pyramids, quiet geometry beneath an unmarked sky. Two sphinx-paws defend it, two recumbent lions watch over, guarding the portico, two other lions, winged, dressed in the aquatic arms of the Nile. A double emblem of desert and water, sterile powers that joined, procreate. Little monument of fire in a corner of the room. Egypt burning, encrusted on the façade of winter. Cipher Wall tattooed with signs like the body of the starry night. Up there, neither clouds nor stars: an architecture of wood, arcades and niches populated by echoes. Horizon of petrified time: each stamp is a cipher, each cipher a window, each window a glance that drills through the days and unveils its face: not of yesterday or tomorrow, but of now. The windows are stamps and the stamps are omens turned into fortunes: The couple meets and entwines. She and he are a living stamp, the undressed cipher of the daily beginning again. India These letters and sinuous lines that entwine and separate on the paper are like the palm of a hand: are they India? And the paw of tawny metal -forged by the sun, chilled by the moon- its claws squeezing a hard glass ball and the iridescent sphere, the thousands of candles, burning and shining, that the faithful launch each night, floating on the lakes and rivers: are they a prophecy, a riddle, the memory of an encounter, the scattered signs of fortune? -They are the scepter of chance, left at the foot of the tree of time by the king of this world. Enigma We are born from a question, each one of our acts is a question, our years are a forest of questions, you are a question and I am another, God is the hand that tirelessly writes universes in the form of questions. Door What's behind that door? Don't knock, don't ask, no one answers, nothing can open it, not the picklock of curiosity nor the little key of reason, nor the hammer of impatience. Don't talk, don't ask, come closer, put your ear to it, can't you hear it breathing? There, on the other side, someone like you asks: what's behind that door? Excerpted from Figures & Figurations by OCTAVIO PAZ MARIE JOSÉ PAZ Copyright (c) 2002 by Marie José Paz, Heir of Octavio Paz Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.