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The Complete Poetry

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Complete Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    My initial quest was to bring a literary souvenir from Perú and it seems I found out what would become a dear poet to me, a poet who will now remain close to my heart for times to come. Chance and fate have been playing unpredicted roles in my life lately. Peruvian expatriate César Vallejo was born in Santiago de Chuco, a small village in the northern Andes mountains in 1892. His life was forged in despair and alienation while he studied literature, law and medicine in Lima, where he was struck w My initial quest was to bring a literary souvenir from Perú and it seems I found out what would become a dear poet to me, a poet who will now remain close to my heart for times to come. Chance and fate have been playing unpredicted roles in my life lately. Peruvian expatriate César Vallejo was born in Santiago de Chuco, a small village in the northern Andes mountains in 1892. His life was forged in despair and alienation while he studied literature, law and medicine in Lima, where he was struck with the harshness of city life when comparing it with the uneventful rural life of his childhood. Introduced to the ideas of Darwin, Marx and Rationalist philosophers, Vallejo felt that the Catholic faith in which he had been raised was no longer feasible and he became actively interested in his pre-Columbian heritage while becoming increasingly anguished to learn of the suffering of aboriginals in his country, particularly during the Spanish Colonization. And in that sense, Vallejo arose, not only as a poet, but also as a man who embodied his political views and his social engagement through his verses, mourning for what was lost and bewildered by the senselessness of the brutality of life. But protest poems were not his only achievements. Vallejo’s poetry managed to highlight the melodic quality of language, using erotic lyrics for descriptions of human landscape, breaking conventions in inventing new words when existent ones failed to convey the passion of a lover, the irrecoverable feeling of innocence so characteristic of childhood or the proud respect towards a forthcoming and certain death. Located between post-modernism and avant-gardism, Vallejo develops his writing style, ignoring the modernist constrains since his work neglects the measured verse and its rhyme and obviates grammar rules and the semantic use of words while finding new ways of aesthetic expression. His uncanonically use of free verse achieves a superior form of portraying his humanity and his most intimate thread of thinking. This is most evident in his first collection of poems called “Los Heraldos Negros” (The Black Messengers) , where estrangement and a constant feeling of social injustice become recurrent subjects along with a sensuous yearning that usually takes form of a woman’s body. “Mi carne nada, nada en la copa de sombra que me hace aún doler; mi carne nada en ella como en un pantanoso corazón de mujer.” (*) (“My flesh nothing, nothing in the glass made of shade that makes me hurt still; my flesh swims in her like in a swampy heart of woman.”) (*) Note the play on words used in Spanish as the verb ”nada” (swim) is spelled in the same way than the noun ” nada” (nothing) , creating a double meaning in the verse. Is he swimming, lost in reverie in a passionate embrace or feeling debased and alienated in doing so? His next collection of poems,”Trilce”, is much more of a challenge for the reader as it appears completely devoid of ornamental language; leaving articles, conjunctions and even particles of words dangling at the end of a line. His verses usually manage to break the rhythm by employing awkward alliterations and they explore multiple meanings in playing with spelling while creating new words when he thinks it convenient. “ Pasa una paralela a ingrata línea quebrada de felicidad me extraña cada firmeza, junto a esa agua que se aleja, que ríe acero, caña. Hilo retemplado, hilo, hilo binómico ¿por dónde romperás, nudo de guerra? Acoraza este ecuador, Luna.” (“Draw a parallel to ungrateful cracked line of happiness. I wonder at each firmness, along with that water it moves away, laughing steel, cane. Retempering thread, thread, binomial thread where will you be breaking in, knot of war? Protect this Ecuador, Moon.”) In attributing qualities not normally associated with words, like a laughing river flow, which could represent the mockery of the inexorable passage of time, filtering through life and shattering all chances of happiness, Vallejo tampers with clichés to give them new meaning, creating more aggressive than beautiful poems where a raw and complex language serves the purpose of illustrating the human struggle against all kind of physical and spiritual limitations. Although I was impressed by Vallejo’s juggling use of words and syntax in ”Trilce”, his voice spoke most distinctly to me, hitting close to home, in his last volume, “Poemas Humanos” (Human Poems) . Vallejo wrote this collection during his exile in Europe, mainly in Paris, as an expatriate political activist while openly fighting Franco’s fascist forces and writing in defense of the Republic during the Spanish Civil War. This volume was published posthumously by his wife. Vallejo’s most passionate and tragic voice can be heard in the fatally wounded verses of his more mature years, where a haunting quest for the true meaning of life becomes futile in the poet’s eyes when faced with the impossibility of humanity to grasp it. His poems ooze with the frustration inherent in the human condition and with his heart-breaking perplexity of finally succumbing to a ruthless and chaotic world. Having abandoned all religious faith, Vallejo searched for answers in his surrealist writing, relentlessly questioning himself, squeezing words to their limit while mourning for the loss of moral innocence. He sensed his end was near. All these sentiments reach their peak in one of his most famous poems ”Piedra Negra sobre Piedra Blanca” (“Black Stone on White Stone”) : ”Me moriré en París con aguacero, un día del cual tengo ya el recuerdo. Me moriré en París ? y no me corro? tal vez un jueves, como es hoy, de otoño. Jueves será, porque hoy, jueves, que proso estos versos, los húmeros me he puesto a la mala y, jamás como hoy, me he vuelto, con todo mi camino, a verme solo. César Vallejo ha muerto, le pegaban todos sin que él les haga nada; le daban duro con un palo y duro también con una soga; son testigos los días jueves y los huesos húmeros, la soledad, la lluvia, los caminos...” ( “I will die in Paris with a rainstorm, on a day I already remember, I will die in Paris—and I don't shy away— perhaps on a Thursday, as today is, in autumn. It will be Thursday, because today, Thursday, as I prose these lines, I've put on my humeri in a bad mood, and, today like never before, I've turned back, with all of my road, to see myself alone. César Vallejo has died; they kept hitting him, everyone, even though he does nothing to them, they gave it to him hard with a club and hard also with a rope; witnesses are the Thursday days and the humerus bones, the solitude, the rain, the roads. . .” ) I have discovered in Cesar Vallejo a new poetic reference; his verses emerge as twin souls to Picasso or Salvador Dalí’s disruptive paintings in setting up both an innovative and wrenching poetic language for Spanish that radically altered the shape of its imagery and the nature of its rhythms. As Vallejo himself says in his poetry, he was born into a life full of pain, despair and anguish, but he managed to alleviate its burden with his visceral passion for the written word, opening the way for future poets by leaving a brighter, cleaner and much more polished, maybe even angular, language to them. Ready to be used and re-used, but never to be either wasted or forgotten.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Liam Howley

    On mother's day, on the 30th March this year, a present arrived for me, from Ursula, my wife and mother of my child, that put my measly pretence of a gift in the shade. The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo, a Peruvian poet from the early 20th century, was the last thing I would have expected, for I was not only woefully ignorant of him, but could not recall having ever heard of him before. Being no expert in poetry, and in fact, being in the case of poetry quite a light reader, I would in most c On mother's day, on the 30th March this year, a present arrived for me, from Ursula, my wife and mother of my child, that put my measly pretence of a gift in the shade. The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo, a Peruvian poet from the early 20th century, was the last thing I would have expected, for I was not only woefully ignorant of him, but could not recall having ever heard of him before. Being no expert in poetry, and in fact, being in the case of poetry quite a light reader, I would in most cases have just brushed this lack of knowledge off, settled down and, with a glass or two of whiskey, become acquainted. However, I soon discovered that this was no ordinary omission. "There are blows in life, so powerful... I don't know! Blows as from the hatred of God; as if, facing them the undertow of everything suffered welled up in the soul... I don't know!" From The Black Heralds, this opening stanza begins a collection of poetry that I cannot begin to describe, and yet that I have an overwhelming desire to share. I love words. I love the malleable mála of these arbitrary arrangements that can envelope you, mold you, wrap you in their labyrinthine passage or cut you open, tear your heart with slivers. The words I love reside at intersections, as frontiers in a changing landscape, insecure and fragile... How it is that a poem comes, I don't know. I've written a few. Some I've parted with as gifts. Others I've stretched and bent and kneaded into shape so to fit my prose, or just simply discarded. How it is that Telluric and Magnetic came to be written, to ... "... integrate with wind the lowings, the waters with their deaf antiquity" ... "Rain based on noon, under the tile roof where indefatigable altitude gnaws and the turtle dove cuts her trill in three!" ... “Just to have seen their corrosive dust! Just to have heard their oxides of the heights! Mouth wedges, mouth anvils, mouth apparatus (It is tremendous!)” César Vallejo was of his time. And his time was one of force and violence, of emergence, of making and remaking. Revolutions, ruptures, the rent faces of humanity split on altars. "Málaga without father or mother, nor pebble, nor oven, nor white dog! Málaga defenseless, where my death was born taking steps and my birth died of passion! Málaga walking behind your feet, in exodus, under evil, under cowardice, under the concave, inexpressible history, with the yolk in your hand: organic earth! And the white in your hair tips: the whole chaos!" I could continue quoting pieces from his poems, but I won't. I do not know them well enough, and they don't deserve to be nibbled but devoured. But here is a link to pen.org where Sam Shepard reads from three of his poems. Have a listen. This will grab your attention.

  3. 4 out of 5

    yórgos

    τον vallejo δεν τον λες εύκολο. αλλα και ποιόν άνθρωπο λες εύκολο;

  4. 5 out of 5

    Albert

    He may be my favorite all-time poet, but such grand proclamations are always problematic when you love so many other authors, like Rimbaud, Lorca, Rilke, Keith Douglas, Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, etc. All I know, is that I have just received this book in the mail today and it is everything and more than my expectations of joy had anticipated. It is good to have the immense thrill of discovery at this middle age of life. I have owned and loved the Posthumous Poetry for almost ten or more years and He may be my favorite all-time poet, but such grand proclamations are always problematic when you love so many other authors, like Rimbaud, Lorca, Rilke, Keith Douglas, Plath, Elizabeth Bishop, etc. All I know, is that I have just received this book in the mail today and it is everything and more than my expectations of joy had anticipated. It is good to have the immense thrill of discovery at this middle age of life. I have owned and loved the Posthumous Poetry for almost ten or more years and always held them in high regard, and sort of never thought about that book being his unpublished unknown poems, and that there was more out there, having never come across a copy of this Complete Poetry book in my searches. Now in this internet age, searching and finding things is so much easier and not at the mercy of less knowledgable book buyers in the regional bookstores you are stuck with. The shipping update said it had just shipped last night, so I did not expect it on my doorstep today, and there it was, and now I am overcome with the joy of the opportunity just to read the poetry, and after reading the first 30 pages of "The Black Heralds" I am overcome with the lyrical mastery of Vallejo. Such beauty and emotional resonance, exceeding even my love of Lorca or Rimbaud. Post-script: After finishing the entire book by reading out loud to myself, I am still in awe of it's supreme greatness amongst all poetry. I will be rereading this over and over the rest of my life.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Beth Asmaa

    The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition is an enjoyable poetry book to read, even though some of these poems among Vallejo's four collections are not immediately crystal clear to the understanding. Even so, the translator Clayton Eshleman has rendered Ricardo González Vigil's Spanish edition of Vallejo into something melodious and sharp, i.e., has kept close to Vallejo's words, meaning, and rhythm. The groups of poems contained here--Los Heraldos Negros, Trilce, Poemas Humanos, and España de Mí The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition is an enjoyable poetry book to read, even though some of these poems among Vallejo's four collections are not immediately crystal clear to the understanding. Even so, the translator Clayton Eshleman has rendered Ricardo González Vigil's Spanish edition of Vallejo into something melodious and sharp, i.e., has kept close to Vallejo's words, meaning, and rhythm. The groups of poems contained here--Los Heraldos Negros, Trilce, Poemas Humanos, and España de Mí Este Cáliz--are all different in scope and style. This book is sure to make readers fans of Vallejo.

  6. 4 out of 5

    metaphor

    However I imagine my life or imagine not having yet been born, I will not succeed in freeing myself. It will not be what is yet to come, but that which came and has already left, but that which came and has already left.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sean A.

    vallejo, at least throughout most of this book creates his own world(s). his syntax, lexicon, ummm, words, are a unique creation orbiting around his sense of hubris, eros, and tragedy. he conveys a fine tuned, vast, parsed sense of emotion. and oh! his sadness! and intensity, yet there is more to it than that for in this his words also translate an immense richness. on a different note, i just checked orwell's 'homage to catolonia' out from the library. vallejo's final grouping of poems, 'spain t vallejo, at least throughout most of this book creates his own world(s). his syntax, lexicon, ummm, words, are a unique creation orbiting around his sense of hubris, eros, and tragedy. he conveys a fine tuned, vast, parsed sense of emotion. and oh! his sadness! and intensity, yet there is more to it than that for in this his words also translate an immense richness. on a different note, i just checked orwell's 'homage to catolonia' out from the library. vallejo's final grouping of poems, 'spain take this cup from me' is wetting my lips to know more about the situation in the ole' spanish civil war. ...and lastly, in eschelman's 'translation memoire' we experience echoes of bolano's labyrinths of the perpetual underground of the world's literature, poetries and translations.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Fleur

    Very ornery and glorious poetry.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Roger Bailey

    I am not a fan of poetry. In fact, I dislike poetry. It is because that it really does not make much sense to me and it is because it seems to be some kind of word game without any clear rules. In the case of this book, I found it on the listopia list for books with an average rating of 4.50 or above and it did, indeed, have an average rating that was above that level. I supposed that it got thagt rating from poetry fans and I am not one of them, but if so many people thought it was that great t I am not a fan of poetry. In fact, I dislike poetry. It is because that it really does not make much sense to me and it is because it seems to be some kind of word game without any clear rules. In the case of this book, I found it on the listopia list for books with an average rating of 4.50 or above and it did, indeed, have an average rating that was above that level. I supposed that it got thagt rating from poetry fans and I am not one of them, but if so many people thought it was that great then I decided to try it out to see what they thought was so great about it. I need not have bothered. Just like most other poetry I don't see the attraction. It did nothing for me. So the Goodreads rating guidelines say that one star is for books that one does not like and because I didn't like it I give it one star.

  10. 5 out of 5

    rarovar

    "Hay golpes en la vida tan fuertes... yo no sé!"

  11. 5 out of 5

    Damián

    Cuando tengo un tiempo, lo agarro y leo sus poemas. Me he acostumbrado a no entender los poemas completamente. Hay una parte que siempre queda varada, a la espera de que el lector haga lo suyo y aporte un significado propio a las series de versos. Los cortes y desorganizaciones gramaticales chocan en un primer momento, se pelea con la legibilidad. Los mismos poemas, en sus detalles, obligan a un ritmo de lectura lento y repetitivo. Es por eso que el libro ha encontrado su lugar en la cómoda de mi Cuando tengo un tiempo, lo agarro y leo sus poemas. Me he acostumbrado a no entender los poemas completamente. Hay una parte que siempre queda varada, a la espera de que el lector haga lo suyo y aporte un significado propio a las series de versos. Los cortes y desorganizaciones gramaticales chocan en un primer momento, se pelea con la legibilidad. Los mismos poemas, en sus detalles, obligan a un ritmo de lectura lento y repetitivo. Es por eso que el libro ha encontrado su lugar en la cómoda de mi baño. Los errores chocan. Pero luego uno mira alrededor, y la vida propia está lejos de ser perfecta. Así que es solamente un poco más humano. "poemas humanos" es mi libro favorito. Menos ampuloso y con menores aspiraciones artísticas de Trilce, busca temas de la vida diaria y comunes al humano, para usar como lienzo y que se luzcan las estructuras volátiles que va armando a lo largo del poemario. "O vino que enviudó de esta botella/botella que enviudó de este vino" Creo que es así la cita. Posar la imaginación y la vista sobre algo tan trillado como la botella para renovarlo y darle nuevas dimensiones. Totalmente recomendable, mejor que la gran mayoría de los libros. Un libro tan pequeño y tan lleno de significado como este es difícil de encontrar.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Guillem

    Seria difícil comprendre perquè el nom de César Vallejo segueix sent tan sovint ignorat si no fos perquè el seu art, la poesia, pateix un cert descredit, essent com és la forma més pura i experimental de literatura i, per tant, la menys accessible al públic general. D'altra manera no s'explica que, en canvi, tothom coneixi Picasso, el Guernica del qual seria el millor equivalent visual a l'España, aparta de mí este cáliz de Vallejo. Un breu repàs: Los heraldos negros és un llibre prou bo, però enc Seria difícil comprendre perquè el nom de César Vallejo segueix sent tan sovint ignorat si no fos perquè el seu art, la poesia, pateix un cert descredit, essent com és la forma més pura i experimental de literatura i, per tant, la menys accessible al públic general. D'altra manera no s'explica que, en canvi, tothom coneixi Picasso, el Guernica del qual seria el millor equivalent visual a l'España, aparta de mí este cáliz de Vallejo. Un breu repàs: Los heraldos negros és un llibre prou bo, però encara recorda massa una espècie de Rubén Darío histèric i "maleït" (la influència de certs poetes francesos també és força evident). A Trilce, un autèntic pas endavant, ja trobem la veu única i inconfusible del poeta, alliberat del pes de les influències. Això s'accentua als Poemas Humanos, un llibre de poesia essencial i decisiu com pocs d'altres. I les quinze parts d'España, aparta de mí este cáliz constitueixen el millor poema del s.XX; que algú m'ho discuteixi si gosa.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jorge

    Tremendo silogismo en el plato lunático porque los hombres andan clavando en sus espaldas la luciérnaga hervida de sus sudores. Una esquina en la página ropa, el baile de los dados formando diminutos, toda la cenicienta en la frente rumbosa, en la palma difusa, en la blancura rota. Vallejo sedicioso, sediento vagabundo de suelas como alas gastadas de desuso, osamenta macilenta de caricia amarilla, en tiempo ya no gira, ya no mueve su cola. (JDM a CV)

  14. 5 out of 5

    Natalie

    Favorites: From The Black Heralds: The Spider, Pilgrimage, Of the Earth, The Poet to His Lover, Summer, September, Dregs, The Black Cup, Plaster, Love, and Epexegesis. From Trilce: 3, 8, 51, 52, 54, and 75. From Human Poems: The Low Point in Life, I Am Going To Speak of Hope, The Need to Die, Intensity and Height, Guitar, The Nine Monsters, and The Wretched. From Spain, Take This Cup From Me: 3, 5, Short Prayer for a Loyalist Hero, Mass, and 14.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Letters Journal

    This may be the most impressive collection of poetry I have ever opened. It is overwhelming at times, and Vallejo's relative obscurity in the Anglophone world - despite the existence of this book - speaks to the near total disappearance of poetry from a place of a cultural relevance or importance. This is the sort of poetry one can study and enjoy and dip into for a lifetime.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Some of the translations are hilariously awful - humerus bones instead of shoulders? - but the poems themselves are so powerful and original that they transcend the translator's idiocies. A beautiful book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Villar Rios

    Vallejo habla sobre Dios, la muerte, la vida, la familia, el Perú, la guerra, cosas cotidianas y también reflexiona mucho más allá. Modernismo y vanguardismo. Su poemario Trilce rompe todos los esquemas. Mis poemas favoritos: Te vas, Comunión, Heces, Trilce, Espergesia y Masa.

  18. 5 out of 5

    George

    One of the most important books to be published in English in the last 100 years. Vallejo is a longtime favorite poet of mine--my very favorite. My book review of this gathering of Vallejo appears in the 2007 issue of Talisman.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matt Whiteford

    I really dislike this translation! Thought Eshleman would do a better job, but the Sayers Pedan collection “Spain, Take This Chalice from Me” is 100% preferable. Could barely enjoy Vallejo’s poetry with Eshleman.

  20. 4 out of 5

    matt Sandler

    a really massive book that manages to feel rather light, I'm not finished with it yet, and sometimes I forget that I'm reading it-- even if its in my hands. But at the same time a real presence is registered. Hauntingly beautiful, at once ultramodern and ancient...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Danielle DeTiberus

    One of the most amazing collections of poetry ever assembled. His poetry inspired pretty much everyone who is writing poetry today. Clayton Eshlemen was haunted by Vallejo until he got these translations right (literally) and, in my humble opinion, it was worth the 50 years it took him to do so.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Geoff McCarthy

    Nothing quite like this poetry.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Claudia Rivas

    Dios, todo el día lloriqueando, no lo soporto.

  24. 5 out of 5

    'Βασίλης

    Άλλο αδερφό δεν έχω

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Reviewed in New Yorker 9/17/2007

  26. 4 out of 5

    Toshi

    Life has a grandeur. Beneath our constant sheering away of meaning -- beauty.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Juan Carlos Santillán

    Cuando uno siente poca afición por la poesía, Vallejo te puede acabar de quitar esa poca.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mariana

    No se me termina de dar esto de leer poesía, pero es definitivamente uno de los que más me han gustado. Particularmente me encantó 'Los heraldos negros'.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bruno

    This is what poetry is meant to be

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Diez

    Con Vallejo he descubierto el poder de la poesía.

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