Latin America has produced many incredible poets, from Octavio Paz to Pablo Neruda, but Peru has had its fair share of influence as well. For some, César Vallejo has struck a particular chord.
Universal in its insights and personal with its tear-jerking emotions, a quick line of poetry can make someone’s day, and give people words to live by for the rest of their lives. I love to write in my free time, but to make an entire career off of writing poetry is something special indeed. It takes an extraordinary individual, with the entire world within their scope and influence. Someone like César Vallejo.
César Vallejo was born in a remote village in the Peruvian Andes.
Born in 1892, César’s grandfathers were Spanish priests and both of his grandmothers were indigenous Peruvians. He witnessed the exploitation of many local farmers on the sugar plantation where he worked, changing his view of politics forever, and likely impacting his future work in ways that he couldn’t anticipate at the time. In 1911, he moved to Lima, studied at the University of San Marcos, and received his BA in Spanish Literature, further projecting him into his future career.
Things started looking up for the then aspiring poet by 1920.
After a tumultuous few years from 1918 to 1920, including the death of his mother and being thrown in jail after being falsely accused of arson, he entered and achieved second place in a poetry contest in which he used a fake name to escape any bias by the judges. During the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, he had been to Paris, Russia, and other parts of Europe, a lot of times in a poverty stricken state.
César went on to meet his wife in Paris in 1927, but had seen her when she lived in his neighborhood years earlier. He finally married her in 1934 in Paris.
During his life, César Vallejo would go on to release several works of poetry in the form of books, five plays, published novels, and journalistic events that he reported on among many other writing accomplishments. His storied life culminated in his untimely death at the age of 46 from a reemergence of a spout of malaria he had had when he was a child.
The impact César Vallejo had on people can still be felt reverberating through the Andes to this day.
Children have mandatory readings by him, his plays are still performed, and his poetry is still religiously celebrated across the world.
César Vallejo’s work and accomplishments cannot be understated. Most people find that immortality is something to be wished for, something that people want to experience. Believe it or not, there are some who do reach this desired state, including César. When you think metaphorically, you can achieve immortality as long as you are never forgotten, and this professional poet has achieved that, and then some. César’s own words are the only appropriate ending to this particular writing:
And if after so much history, we succumb
not to eternity
but to these simple things,
like sitting at home or settling in to think!
And if we then discovered
all of a sudden that we’re living—to judge
by the height of the stars—off a comb
and the stains on a handkerchief!
It would be better, honestly,
to consume everything, of course!