Dear Kent,

I just thought I should send you (just for comparison’s sake) a copy of the book of my Vallejo translations. They were done at the request of the Peruvian Consul in Sydney, Ricardo Morote. Originally I hadn’t wanted to be competing with Eshleman’s translations. His Complete Posthumous Poems of Vallejo, after all, did an enormous service to a generation of poetry readers in English. There were also several wonderful translations by Robert Bly and James Wright. My intention had been to translate only Trilce. At that time, late 1997, not having internet at home or University access to everything published, I didn’t think Trilce had been entirely translated and, with the limitations of my Spanish and the immense difficulties of that book, it would have been no small task. However, what the Consul was interested in was a small sampler across Vallejo’s work translated into Australian English that might be useable at High School level.

The more I looked closely into it the more Eshleman’s versions seemed often hit and miss – strange choices within the one poem alongside very fine passages. His latest revised version of the Complete Poems of Vallejo strikes me even more as a case of one improvement being offset by two worse (and not clear why) strange alterations. This could just be my own taste. It could also have something to do with the fact that I don’t speak American but Australian, and so, like Vallejo, I eat mandarins not tangerines.



Black Stone on a White Stone

I will die in Paris in a sudden downpour,
on a day I can already remember.
I will die in Paris – and I don’t run away from this –
maybe a Thursday, like today is, in autumn.

A Thursday it will be, because today, Thursday,
as I prose these verses, I’ve put on my humeri
with much ill will, and never like today have I turned,
with all my road before me, to see myself alone.

César Vallejo has died. They beat him,
everyone of them, though he does nothing to them.
They gave it to him hard with a stick

and hard with a rope. Witnesses are
the Thursdays, the humeri bones,
the loneliness, the rain, the roads . . .

(translation Peter Boyle, 1999)