We've got to take a chance.

© Roger Mertin, 1968
© Cornell Capa, 1958

Alfred Mac Adam: Television is being criticized as the ruination of twentieth-century life, but you have the unique opinion that television will be good for poetry as a return to the oral tradition.

Octavio Paz: Poetry existed before writing. Essentially, it is a verbal art, that enters us not only through our eyes and understanding but through our ears as well. Poetry is something spoken and heard. It's also something we see and write. In that we see the importance in the Oriental and Asian traditions of calligraphy. In the West, in modern times, typography has also been important—the maximum example in this would be Mallarmé. In television, the aural aspect of poetry can join with the visual and with the idea of movement—something books don't have. Let me explain: this is a barely explored possibility. So I'm not saying television will mean poetry's return to an oral tradition but that it could be the beginning of a tradition in which writing, sound, and images will unite. Poetry always uses all the means of communication the age offers it: musical instruments, printing, radio, records. Why shouldn't it try television? We've got to take a chance.

Octavio Paz, in The Art of Poetry No. 42

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