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January 17, 2007

Clayton Eshleman Will Read César Vallejo Poems on Jan. 26

The Library of Congress will celebrate renowned Peruvian poet César Vallejo, with a reading of his poems by distinguished poetry translator Clayton Eshleman and remarks by Peruvian Ambassador Felipe Ortiz de Zevallos. Following the program, the Peruvian Embassy will host a reception.

Eshleman, translator of the newly released "The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo," will read poems in English and Peruvian businessman Gonzalo Corzo will read poems in Spanish at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 26, in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The reception afterward will be held at the Library.

Sponsored by the Poetry and Literature Center of the Office of Scholarly Programs and the Library’s Hispanic Division, the event is free and open to the public. Tickets or reservations are not required.

Publication of "The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo" marks the first time all of Vallejo’s poems have appeared in a collection by one translator. Eshleman’s earlier translation with Rubia Barcia José of the "Complete Posthumous Poetry of César Vallejo" won the 1979 National Book Award for translation.

Vallejo’s poetry has been termed mysterious and haunting. He was born in the Andes in 1892, the youngest of 11 children, to an Indian-Spanish Catholic family. Vallejo began writing poetry in 1913 and earned a master’s degree in Spanish literature from Trujillo University in 1915. In 1918, his first book of poems, "Los heraldos negros," ("The Black Heralds") was published. "Trilce" appeared in 1922 and is the volume credited with anticipating surrealism and introducing Latin American poetry to a Western audience. "Poemas humanos" ("Human Poems") was published posthumously in 1939 and "España, aparta de mí este cáliz" ("Spain, Take This Cup from Me") in 1940 in Mexico City.

Vallejo’s writing conveys the suffering of the common man based on what he saw on sugar plantations in Peru, what he witnessed when he traveled to Russia and what he experienced after moving in 1923 to Paris, where his life alternated between struggle and comfort. He continued to write poems, expanding notions of what could be said in language, and died in poverty in Paris in 1938. His haunting poem "Black Stone on a White Stone," published after his death, begins:

I will die in Paris in a downpour,
a day which I can already remember,
I will die in Paris--and I don’t budge--
maybe a Thursday, like today, in autumn.

Eshleman’s "The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo" was published this month by the University of California Press. Since 2003, Eshleman has been professor emeritus at Eastern Michigan University.

Eshleman has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a Guggenheim fellowship in poetry, 1978, for research on Upper Paleolithic cave art; a poetry fellowship form the National Endowment for the Arts, 1979; and several translation grants, including one in 1981 from the Witter Bynner Foundation. Eshleman’s essay "A Translation Memoir," about the nearly 50-year project of translating César Vallejo, appears in the current issue of the American Poetry Review, as well as in the book, "The Complete Poetry."

Five collections of Eshleman’s translations, five collections of his poetry and two collections of essays have been published in the past decade. His latest book of poetry is "An Alchemist with One Eye on Fire" (Black Widow Press, 2006).

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PR 07-008
01/17/07
ISSN 0731-3527

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