Monthly Archives: October 2014

Piedra negra sobre una piedra blanca

La piedra blanca de Enrique González-Martínez.


Porque ya mis tristezas son como los matices
sombríos de los cuadros en que la luz fulgura;
porque ya paladeo la gota de la amargura
en el dorado néctar de las horas felices;

porque sé abandonarme, con la santa inconsciencia
de una tabla que flota, sobre el mar de la vida,
y aparté de mis labios la manzana prohibida
con que tentarme quiso el árbol de la ciencia;

porque supe vestirme con el albo ropaje
de mi niñez ingenua, aspirar el salvaje
aroma de los campos, embriagarme de sol,
y mirar como enantes el pájaro y la estrella
(el pájaro que un día me contó su querella;
la estrella que una noche conmigo sonrió),

y porque ya me diste la calma indeficiente,
vida, y el don supremo de la sonrisa franca,
sobre la piedra blanca voy a posar mi frente
y marcaré este día con otra piedra blanca. . .

Does the Vallejo poem refer to this?


Me moriré en París con aguacero,
un día del cual tengo ya el recuerdo.
Me moriré en París, y no me corro,
tal vez un jueves, como es hoy, de otoño.

Jueves será, porque hoy, jueves, que proso
estos versos, los húmeros me he puesto
a la mala y, jamás como hoy, me he vuelto,
con todo mi camino, a verme solo.

César Vallejo ha muerto, le pegaban
todos sin que él les haga nada;
le daban duro con un palo y duro

también con una soga; son testigos
los días jueves y los huesos húmeros,
la soledad, la lluvia, los caminos…


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Biographical criticism is the dominant mode for Vallejo as well; it is as though people thought that if they could find out who he was they might then understand his poetry.

This is true in one way: if you cannot understand that this writing does not come entirely out of a Western experience, and if you cannot hear the non-Western notes in it, then you are missing something important.

But Vallejo is a postmodern subject at least, and Borges said “no hay tal yo de conjunto.”


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Arequipa Tacna Wilson

(That is what the colectivo drivers on an important route in Lima used to say.)

I have returned from Peru, so I can set up course books on the web for spring, contact the high schools, and start building my course websites. I can call the handyman.

I am in a position to write every day, and do things like yoga.

The voyage was miraculous and epoch-making.

My horoscope says:

You are at a point in your astrological cycle when you deserve to rake in the rewards that you have been working hard to earn. I expect you to be a magnet for gifts and blessings. The favors and compliments you have doled out will be returned to you. For all the strings you have pulled in behalf of others’ dreams, strings will now be pulled for you. Halloween costume suggestion: a beaming kid hauling around a red wagon full of brightly wrapped presents….

(Do you have a…time when a key to your destiny was suddenly laid bare? A turning point when you got a gift that has fueled your quest for years? Revisit that breakthrough. Then ask life for another one.)

As a side note, I learned that I was right back then when I said it was not the right time to be working on Vallejo (it is easier now, it was twenty years too early, said an expert who knows nothing of my trials), and when I said he was not the right horse to bet on for a career (he still is not, said a great Vallejo scholar who also regrets having been too good a citizen of his university, at the expense of his own research and name).



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La colonia infinita

Monday I woke up in a remote Andean town and rode down 12,000 feet through the mountains to the Pacific coast, to lunch with many Peruvian regional dishes at the home of the rector of the university. Then I flew to Lima. The Avianca stewardesses wear red capes.

Tuesday I took the new Metro(bus) to Lima 1 and saw all the renovations of the 16th-19th century buildings, and was there as the Señor de los Milagros (el Cristo moreno) entered the Iglesia de los Desamparados — a fully viceregal scene. I knew where to walk as, coming back south, I got off the Metro at the new Aramburú station … knew where to find a cab later … knew what price I should bargain for and how to give directions back in heavy traffic to where I was staying.

This morning in Maringouin I called for another cab and it was driven by a Creole speaking man who said the trouble with youth today is that they do not clean their family graves on All Saints’ Day, which is coming up.

In Peru you can feel the presence of the Pacific, a certain kind of light and air that penetrates quite far inland. They are cutting sugar cane and burning the fields now, just as in Louisiana. We went by both the sugar cane plantation and the mine where Vallejo worked in administration. Not to mention his house, school, family graveyard; not to mention giving some versions of our papers in the hall where he graduated.

Central Lima is really beautiful now. Most of the reconstructions are wonderful. The renovation of the old Correos is an exception. They are working on Jirón Azángaro now, where I spent so many amazing afternoons at No. 722, the Librería Mejía Baca.


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I am here again, with this event. Trujillo seems beachy and bright as always, with flags snapping in the breeze, as on a ship. On the Jirón San Martín there are letter-writers for hire on the sidewalk, with manual typewriters and carbon paper. I want to take their picture.

Peru is one of the countries that would most benefit from the elimination of motor vehicles, and the return of the electric tram. I am told Lima’s actual population is 11,000,000 now. But even little Trujillo is overpopulated with cars. Beep-beep!



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The Internet

If, when I was having all these problems with Vallejo in the 1990s and even the early 2000s, I had gotten in touch with the Peruvians, they would have taken care of it all. I should also have gotten in touch in the late 1980s, when I had different problems. But especially when I had all those problems of the 1990s.

Seriously, I did not realize this. But had we had the Internet, it would have occurred to me to find out. My student says the Internet is the most revolutionary thing that has happened since the discovery of America. Do you think?




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Additional gossip on César Vallejo

He is an archipelago.

Trilce is filled with, even structured by fragments of the myth of Inkarrí.

From Los heraldos negros we know that a huaco is

…el pichón de cóndor desplumado
por latino arcabuz

but also

[u]n fermento de Sol;
¡levadura de sombra y corazón!

The poetic subject is a solar being, latent but about to break forth. “Nostalgias imperiales” is an ironic title.




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