Octavio Paz has long been known for his brilliant essays as well as for his poetry. Through the essays, he has sought to confront the tensions inherent in the conflict between art and society and to achieve a unity of their polarities. The Siren and the Seashell is a collection of Paz’s essays, focusing on individual poets and on poetry in general. The first five poets he treats are Latin American: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Rubén Darío, José Juan Tablada, Ramón López Velarde, and Alfonso Reyes. Then there are essays on Robert Frost, e. e. cummings, Saint-John Perse, Antonio Machado, and Jorge Guillén. Finally, there are Paz’s reflections on the poetry of solitude and communion and the literature of Latin America. Each essay is more than Paz’s impressions of one person or issue; each is the occasion for a wider discussion of cultural, historical, psychological, and philosophical themes. The essays were selected from Paz’s writing between 1942 and 1965 and provide an overview of the development of his thinking and an exploration of the ideas central in his works.
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