Vaga visita del Noser

From Clayton Eshleman, “A Translation Memoir,” in Vallejo, The Complete Poetry (California 2007) 679:

I also began to have violent and morbid fantasies that seemed provoked by the combination of translating and writing. More and more I felt that I was struggling with a man as well as a text, and that this struggle was a matter of my becoming or failing to become a poet. The man I was struggling with did not want his words changed from one language to another. I also realized that in working on Vallejo’s Poemas humanos I had ceased to be what I was before coming to Kyoto, that I now had a glimpse of another life, a life I was to create for myself, and that this other man I was struggling with was also the old Clayton who was resisting change. The old Clayton wanted to continue living in his white Presbyterian world of “light” – where man is associated with day / clarity / good and woman with night / opaqueness / bad. The darkness that was beginning to spread through my sensibility could be viewed as the breaking up of the belief in male supremacy that had generated much of that “light.”

“The darkness beginning to spread through my sensibility.” The visit from Nonbeing.

Vallejo, “Encaje de fiebre,” in Los heraldos negros (1919):

Por los cuadros de santos en el muro colgados
mis pupilas arrastran un ¡ay! de anochecer;
y en un temblor de fiebre, con los brazos cruzados,
mi ser recibe vaga visita del Noser.

Una mosca llorona en los muebles cansados
yo no sé qué leyenda fatal quiere verter:
una ilusión de Orientes que fugan asaltados;
un nido azul de alondras que mueren al nacer.

En un sillón antiguo sentado está mi padre.
Como una dolorosa, entra y sale mi madre.
Y al verlos siento un algo que no quiere partir.

Porque antes de la oblea que es hostia hecha de Ciencia,
está la hostia, oblea hecha de Providencia.
Y la visita nace, me ayuda a bien vivir…….

“Fever Lace,” translated by Clayton Eshleman:

Through the pictures of saints hung on the wall
my eyeballs drag an ay! of nightfall;
and in a fever shudder, arms crossed,
my being receives a nebulous visit from Nonbeing.

A crying fly on the tired furniture
wants to spill I do not know what ghastly legend:
an illusion of Orients that flee assaulted;
a blue nest of skylarks that die while being born.

An old armchair holds my father.
Like Our Lady of Sorrows my mother comes and goes.
Seeing them I feel something that does not want to go away.

Because before the wafer, host made of Science,
there is the Host, wafer made of Providence.
And the visit is born, it helps me to live right…….


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3 Responses to Vaga visita del Noser

  1. Tom says:

    “where man is associated with day / clarity / good and woman with night / opaqueness / bad”

    I know these are supposed to be standard images, but they never made any sense to me. I can’t relate. My father always seemed dark black and my mother much paler. (Not physically.) Somehow looking squarely at my private symbols (the reversed ones) seems to be energizing me to write … something.

    For some stubborn reason I’m trying to make myself grind thru the poem in my sputtering, stalling, cylinder-skipping, dictionary-powered castellano. (Do people even still call it castellano anymore? Or is that just an artifact of 1970s-era language classes?)

  2. profacero says:

    I believe it was Freud who said that women were the “dark continent” (and I need to look up contexts of that again) but you know: women, moonlight, blood , witchcraft, mystery, emotional, irrationality, that sort of associations vs. men as rational. The way I thought of it as a small child was: my father could handle words and not things, and my mother, things and not words.

    Vallejo at least in my reading believes those stereotypes, too, and I do not think of him as a very feminist writer – unreconstructed traditional male, in fact, I’d say at many points. Although there is Tace Hedrick who if I remember correctly has written on Vallejo and the feminine, used feminist theory to read Vallejo (without saying he was feminist).

    I think what Eshleman is getting at is, the darkness that spread through his sensibility showed him men could be in, or gripped by those
    chthonic forces, too. OK, I guess, if he hadn’t figured that out yet … I would have diagnosed it as shedding whiteness / Americanness just as easily … I suspect it is none of the above, but something else/deeper. Again – I do not see Vallejo as someone who would induce anyone to shed traditional gender roles, but it appears that for Clayton this was the case.

    But V. does spread darkness through the sensibility, and I am glad to see that is not just my experience … so, thanks Clayton for solidarity!

    Although the translation is good and pretty literal, the poem does read differently in Spanish. Part of it is that the two languages sound so different.

    Castellano, what we call Spanish is Castilian (there are other Spanish languages) … and Spanish in the Americas, and especially the Caribbean, has a lot of influence from Andalusian, which is a separate language or a dialect / accent depending on what definitions you use of all these things. Castilian became the national language as part of the imperial enterprise. Many people refer to Castilian rather than Spanish to emphasize that it is not the only language in the Peninsula, or when being specific is relevant for practical reasons. As in, “Yes, he is from Spain, but his native language is not Castilian, it is Galician” – or something like that.

  3. profacero says:

    Here’s a link on Bataille and the “abject,” that dark place where you can “access” renewal.

    “Y la visita [del Noser] nace / y me ayuda a bien vivir”

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