The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition

The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition

The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition

The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition


This first translation of the complete poetry of Peruvian César Vallejo (1892-1938) makes available to English speakers one of the greatest achievements of twentieth-century world poetry. Handsomely presented in facing-page Spanish and English, this volume, translated by National Book Award winner Clayton Eshleman, includes the groundbreaking collections The Black Heralds (1918), Trilce (1922), Human Poems (1939), and Spain, Take This Cup from Me (1939).

Vallejo's poetry takes the Spanish language to an unprecedented level of emotional rawness and stretches its grammatical possibilities. Striking against theology with the very rhetoric of the Christian faith, Vallejo's is a tragic vision--perhaps the only one in the canon of Spanish-language literature--in which salvation and sin are one and the same. This edition includes notes on the translation and a fascinating translation memoir that traces Eshleman's long relationship with Vallejo's poetry. An introduction and chronology provide further insights into Vallejo's life and work.


Mario Vargas Llosa

There are poets whose work can be explained, and there are inexplicable poets, like César Vallejo. But being unable to explain does not mean being unable to understand, or that his poems are incomprehensible, totally hermetic. It means that, contrary to our reading of explicable poets, even after we have studied everything about his poems that rational knowledge has to offer—his sources, his techniques, his unique vocabulary, his subjects, his influences, the historical circumstances surrounding the creation of his poems—we remain in the dark, unable to penetrate that mysterious aureole that we feel to be the secret of this poetry’s originality and power.

Whether or not a poet is rationally explicable implies nothing about the depth or the excellence of his poetry. Neruda is a great and original poet, and his poetry, even the most obscure, that of Residencia en la tierra, is accessible through logical analysis by perceptive critics who know how to follow the text down to its roots, to its deepest core. With Vallejo the opposite happens. Even the poems of his youth— those of The Black Heralds, strongly marked by modernism and the avant-garde schools that came after it—have, within their seeming transparency, a nucleus irreducible to pure reason, a secret heart that eludes every effort the rational mind makes to hear it beat.

Vallejo’s poetry, for all its references to familiar landscapes and a social and historical milieu, transcends those coordinates of time and space and positions the reader on a more permanent and profound plane: that of the human condition. Which is to say, the existential reality of which the lives of men and women are made: the uncertainty about our origin and our future beyond this earth; the extremes of suffering and desperation that human beings can reach; and also the intensity of our emotions when we are overcome by love, excitement, pity, or nostalgia. But the mystery in his poetry resides not in those existential subjects or states but, rather, in how they take shape in a language that communicates them to the reader directly, more through a sort of osmosis or contagion than through any intelligible discourse.

Vallejo’s is a poetry that makes us feel the very fibers of existence, that strips us of all that is incidental and transitory, and confronts us with the essence we have within us: our mortality, the desperate wish to achieve transcendence and somehow to survive death, the skein of absurdities, errors, and confusions that determine our individual destinies.

Clayton Eshleman discovered Vallejo in 1957, while still in college and not yet . . .

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