Clayton Eshleman


"The invention of the historical other has become almost programmatic in twentieth-century American poetry; for Pound, ancient China; for H.D., classical Greece; for Olson, Mesopotamia; for Snyder, the Neolithic, Eshleman has pushed the historical back about as far as it can go: to the Upper Paleolithic, and the earliest surviving images made by humans. As a result of his literal and imaginative explorations of the painted and gouged caves, Eshleman has constructed a myth, perhaps the first compelling post-Darwinian myth: that the Paleolithic represents the "crisis" of the human "separating out" of the animal, the original birth and original fall of man. From that moment, human history spins out: from the repression of the animal within to the current extinction of the animals without; the inversion from matriarchy to patriarchy, and the denial of the feminine; the transformation of the fecund underworld into the Hell of suffering; and the rising of Hell, in the twentieth century to the surface of the earth: Dachau, Hiroshima. The poet's journey is an archetypal scenario of descent and rebirth: he has traveled to the origin of humanness to reach the millennium, end and beginning."

Eliot Weinberger, Works on Paper, New Directions, 1986.

Sulfur must be the most important literary magazine which has explored and extended the boundaries of poetry. Clayton Eshleman has had a nose for smelling out what was going to happen next in the ceaseless evolution of the art."

James Laughlin, New Directions Books.

"This, the first National Book Award to be given to a translation of modern poetry, is a recognition of Clayton Eshleman's seventeen year apprenticeship to perhaps the most difficult poetry in the Spanish language. Eshleman, by rendering these complex poems into brilliant and living English, has also made a considerable addition to poetry in our language."

from The National Book Award Citation
of César Vallejo's Complete Posthumous Poetry,
University of California Press, 1978.