Despite starting late, the reading was brisk and, generally speaking, a pleasure.
It was divided up into several sections. Unfortunately, something that happened after the reading may predispose my tone in this narrative.
This was Clayton Eshleman's baby.
He is an established poet, critic, and translator. The Complete Poetry of César Vallejo, A Bilingual Edition, the volume for which the reading was held to promote, is translated and edited by Eshleman. Published by the University of California, the volume has gone through its first print run of 3000 copies, and is in a second printing. I overheard Eshleman tell this to a member of the foreign press at the reception after the reading.
So after the obligatory introduction, Eshleman reads a specific introduction about Vallejo. "Come on," I thought, "bring on the poetry!"
The reading consisted of three sets with three readers each - the first two readers in each set alternated between Spanish and English versions of the same poems. The third reader read poems in English.
The three poems read were
[Please note, all poems hyperlinked will send you to a separate page]:
All done nicely.
Next was playwright/actor Sam Shepard. Brilliantly done.
He read "Lines" (clip below)
He followed with "The Eternal Dice" (link to poem on someone's MySpace page, translator undetermined) and "Epexegesis" (hear Eshleman read this at link at end of page, or see a translation here, on a blog called First We Take Manhattan. Could be Eshleman's version, as it is a recent post. Great poem.
Section II of the reading was from the book Trilce.
I've heard Vicuña before and she reads expressively and passionately. She was a tough act to follow but Gander held his own.
They read sections I, X, and XXII.
Next up was Jayne Cortez, a phenomenal performance poet who I have heard read twice before. She did an okay job, but I had much higher expectations. The program said she would read Trilce LVI and LXXV, "& one other section". However, she only read the first two.
They read "Piedra Negra Sobre una Piedra Blanca" - "Black Stone on a White Stone," "Tellurica y Magnetica" - "Telluric and Magnetic" and the clip below is "Quederme a Calentar la Tinta en que me Ahogo" - "I Stayed on to Warm Up the Ink in which I Drown".
I stayed on to warm up the ink in which I drown
and to listen to my alternative cavern,
tactile nights, abstracted days.
The unknown shuddered in my tonsil
and I creaked from an annual melancholy,
solar nights, lunar days, Parisian sunsets.
And still, this very day, at nightfall,
I digest the most sacred certainties,
maternal nights, great-granddaughter days,
bicolored, voluptuous, urgent, lovely.
I arrive, I reach myself in a two-seated plane
under the domestic morning and the mist
which emerged eternally from an instant.
at the tail of the comet in which I have earned
my happy and doctoral bacillus,
behold that warm, listener, male earth, sun and male moon,
incognito I cross the cemetery,
head off to the left, splitting
the grass with a pair of hendecasyllables,
tombal years, infinite liters,
ink, pen, bricks and pardons.
24 September 1937
The reading closed with Eshelman reading "Untitled (There are days, there comes to me...)," "The Wretched," and "Sermon on Death." He was okay, and definitely better than his introduction.
Listen: Eshleman reading "Untitled" on December 9, 2006 (mp3 via Penn Sound)
and Eshleman reading "The Wretched" (mp3, same source)
In all, it was an enjoyable reading. Vallejo is generally unheralded in the U.S., so I was able to hear more of a poet I knew little about
Over at Penn Sound, you can hear Eshleman's entire reading at Woodland Pattern Book Center, in Milwaukee, WI, December 9, 2006 (link here).