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by Octavio Paz

Proem Theme of Identity

Mixing it up, worshiping it, dissolving it, burying it—all things you might do with an Alka-Seltzer tablet or, in this case, what poetry does with identity. "Proem" shows how poetry can stretch and twist the self, and in the end is really a self-absorbed art. And the fact that this poem is about itself is just another nail in the coffin of selflessness.

Questions About Identity

  1. What can we learn about the poetic speaker's identity from the poem?
  2. What happens to identity when it comes to poetry, and how does this happen?
  3. Is the poet made out to be an egomaniac, or rather someone with no ego at all? Or is there some way to be both in this poem? How can you tell?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Mine, mine, mine. Gimme, gimme, gimme. Poetry, because it is a solitary activity for both poet and reader, is a selfish pursuit.

No, no. You're way off. Poetry, because of its roots in language and spoken word, is a collective activity that dissolves identity.

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