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by Octavio Paz

Memory and the Past Theme

Poetry is all about revolution, rock and roll, and breaking rules! The past is always present in the poem, but it's challenged—or at least remembered—with a twist in "Proem." And we're not talking about a few days ago or last month; this is the ancient past, which gives the poem some weight and a place in the very tradition it is both praising—and challenging.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Whose memory is being portrayed in this poem?
  2. Why do you think the poem goes back to such a distant past for its references?
  3. What is the effect of the pun on "recollection" in line 9?

Chew on This

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

Time to hop in the way-back machine. "Proem" attempts to dig into a collective, cultural past to explain poetry's source.

Poet Ezra Pound famously said "Make it new." When Pound speaks, Paz listens. "Proem" is all about breaking with the past and starting something entirely new.

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