“I WAS INTRODUCED to Octavio and Marie-José Paz in Cambridge in 1970 by my friend and fellow-poet Anthony Rudolf. Tony and I had been undergraduates at Cambridge from 1961 to 1964. I have been grateful to him for that introduction ever since.
In 1970, Octavio was fifty-five years old and I was twenty-six. I was fascinated by him from the outset. I had never met a writer from the Spanish-speaking world before, let alone Mexico. I had studied English at Cambridge, and in the mid-to-late 1960s my poetic interests lay mainly in Italy and Greece. From 1964 to 1966 I had lived in Padua and Venice and, in 1967-78, in Thebes and Athens. In 1965, I translated poems by Cesare Pavese and Aldo Vianello, and in Venice I once half-met Ezra Pound. In Greece, I had been discovering the work of George Seferis, as well as other modern Greek poets, including Constantine Cavafy, Yannis Ritsos, Odysseus Elytis, and Nikos Gatsos; and since the 1967 coup d’état, I had been very much involved in the campaign to restore democracy to Greece. These interests and preoccupations gave me little direct context in which to place Octavio. Nor did I know his work. If there was any advantage in my ignorance, it was that I first met him as a man rather than as a writer.”