jim leftwich’s transmutations of vallejo

Jim Leftwich’s transmutations (not translations) of the poetry of César Vallejo are nothing short of brilliant. They feel more Vallejo in English than any previous translations ever have. Vallejo is certainly, bar none, among the greatest poets of the 20th century. Human, more than immediately human, tortured, both baroque and surreal, and lyrical beyond compare, his poetry defies translation, so difficult does it appear at times. This is especially the case with his early work Trilce (Tres tresss trisss treesss tril trilssss, Leftwich’s title has it). Claimed by the surrealists as a master in that genre, Vallejo is that and more than that, opaque as Góngora or bittersweetly acerbic as Lorca, the complexity of his language and imagery find few parallels. Leftwich has created a Vallejo more Vallejo than Vallejo at times. These transmutations have all the speed, energy and enigmatic beauty of the originals on which they are based. – Ivan Argüelles

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