Malanga Chasing Vallejo: Selected Poems: César Vallejo
New Translations and Notes: Gerard Malanga
César Vallejo; Translated and Edited by Gerard Malanga
978-0-9895125-7-2 | 9780989512572
0-9895125-7-6 | 0989512576
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Three Rooms Press
In the forceful, staggering poetry of César Vallejo, poet and photographer Gerard Malanga discovered a kindred spirit. Driven by a deep sense of spiritual kinship and with the encouragement of Vallejo's widow, Malanga's translations reveal a profound perspective on Vallejo's work that brings into focus the brutal desperation behind his genius. Malanga Chasing Vallejo gathers 82 of Vallejo's poems in a bilingual edition that is marked by the spiritual connection between poet and translator. A work of the heart, these poems are presented from the position of a fellow member of the underclass, providing a street-level entry point for readers who can relate to the hunger feeding every verse and the ache of loneliness that no amount of modern technology can obscure. In addition to the poems, Malanga's heartfelt introduction describes the process of his 45-year commitment to this project. The book also includes a poem about Vallejo by Malanga, rare photos of Vallejo, and transcriptions of several never-before-published letters to Malanga from Vallejo's widow, Georgette de Vallejo, which guided his translation efforts.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION by GERARD MALANGA
I first became acquainted with Vallejo's poetry through the pioneer translations of his work by Thomas Merton, Donald Devenish Walsh, Muna Lee de Muñoz Marín, H. R. Hays, James Wright and Robert Bly. I was not out to improve what they had accomplished. I love what they'd done.
Having read about his life--consumed by the burden of poverty and malnutrition--I felt he was a kindred spirit; and through his verse, I came to understand the bleakness, the loneliness, the deprivation of what he had expressed in his daily living. Life was not kind to him.
I experienced what he experienced. It's no fun being poor in Paris, especially during his sojourn there in those late 1930s, I can imagine. Sixty years later I, too, have walked those same Paris streets of gloom and rain and bitter cold. I, too, peered hungrily through those curtained windows at the privileged in some warm and cozy bistro. I, too, walked away with a growling stomach. I, too, had unfulfilled desires glancing shop windows, even at something as simple as a folded linen handkerchief. I, too, wore through the soles of my only pair of shoes until my feet ached from the dampness. They don't give you grants or shower you with prizes for being poor. Poverty doesn't support vision, and counts for nothing in the end.
Vallejo's experiences became my experiences--not by choice, mind you, but by the mere fact of our spiritual brotherhood through poetry. It's as if I fully understood the spirituality of what he was expressing on a universal plane. He was talking to me directly. His soul touched mine through his verse. In this moment, we became spiritual brothers.
But I had no one with whom I could share those experiences discovered through his verse. Dare I reach out to Vallejo’s widow, Madame Georgette de Vallejo?
I was forewarned that she was difficult to deal with. But this warning didn’t discourage me in the slightest. I wanted to touch the one person still alive who was closest to the man whose works touched me. One problem: She was living in Lima, Perú, nearly 4000 miles away.
So I took a chance, a long shot, to be sure: I sent her a couple dozen of my translations. Remarkably, within a month, she wrote back with glowing remarks and helpful hints and even concrete examples of what to do and what not to do, so that I could make my versions better. She bestowed upon me the gift of her generosity and the knowledge she had gained being César Vallejo's lifetime companion. She shared with me her knowledge because she clearly believed in my work.