World Book Day April 23 Peru poetry

World Book Day April 23 Peru poetry

World Book Day April 23

Peru poetry: Cesar Vallejo

On the look out for a thoughtful period of cultural exchange in Peru this week, I came across the work of the late Peruvian poet, Cesar Vallejo, who is acclaimed as having revolutionised poetry in Spanish. He died in 1938, after a career not only as a poet, but also a journalist and playwright – always interested in a mix of leftist politics and finely tuned aesthetics. Vallejo published just three books of poetry during his lifetime yet is considered one of the great poetic innovators of the 20th century. His style and subject matter are said to have universal appeal – here’s a morsel to taste:

The Black Heralds

There are blows in life, so powerful … I don’t know!

Blows as from the hatred of God; as if, facing them,

that undertow of everything suffered

welled up in the soul … I don’t know!


They are few; but they are … They open dark trenches

in the fiercest face and in the strongest back.

Perhaps they are the colts of barbaric Attilas;

or the black heralds sent to us by Death.


They are the deep falls of the Christs of the soul,

of some adored faith blasphemed by Destiny.

Those bloodstained blows are the crackling of

bread burning up at the oven door.


And man … Poor … poor! He turns his eyes, as

when a slap on the shoulder summons us;

turns his crazed eyes, and everything lived

wells up, like a pool of guilt, in his look.


There are blows in life, so powerful … I don’t know!


From Vallejo’s Selected Poems (tr. Clayton Eshleman) Ediciones El Lector, SF – Arequipa 2009.




  1. 23 April, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Dear Chris Powerful work of this amazing poet full of images and feelings I can relate to. Ill be googling Cesar Vallejo to see more! Thank you. Meg

    Reply »
  2. 25 April, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    I hadn't heard of him but I will check his work. Thanks for sharing this poem.

    Reply »

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