Cesar Vallejo, translated by Michael Smith (1942-2014), with memorial note from Trevor Joyce


Since he died, a year ago today, I’ve frequently found myself missing Michael Smith. There are so many things, texts, ideas, I’d have wanted to discuss with him, preferably over a few whiskies. I’m glad he left us so much fine work, both in his own poetry, and in his translation.

Here’s one of his translations, from the work of the Peruvian poet whom we both discovered, independently, but on almost the same day, going on for five decades ago.

Trevor Joyce

César Vallejo

The Peace, The Wasp, The Heel, The Flowing . . .

The peace, the wasp, the heel, the flowing,
the dead, the decilitres, the owl,
the places, the want, the sarcophagi, the vessel, the brunettes,
the ignorance, the pots, the acolyte,
the drops, oblivion,
the potentate, the cousins, the archangels, the needle,
the parsons, the ebony, the disdain,
the part, the type, the stupor, the soul . . .

Ductile, saffroned, external, clear,
mobile, old, thirteen, bloodied,
photographed, ready, numb,
linked, long, ribboned, perfidious . . .

Burning, comparing,
living, being angry,
beating, analysing, hearing, trembling,
dying, holding on, taking place, crying . . .

Afterwards, those, here,
afterwards, above,
perhaps, meanwhile, behind, so much, so never,
below, maybe, far,
always, that, tomorrow, how much,
how much! . . .

The horrendous, the sumptuary, the slowest,
the august, the unfruitful,
the fateful, the contracting, the drenched, the fatal,
the everything, the purest, the lugubrious,
the harsh, the satanic, the tactile, the deep . . .