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Clayton Eshleman is a poet and essayist as well as Professor Emeritus of English at Eastern Michigan University. Between 1967 and the present, he founded and edited two of the most seminal and highly-regarded literary magazines of the period, Caterpillar and Sulfur. A recipient of the National Book Award and the Landon Translation Prize, he is the co-translator of Aimé Césaire: The Collected Poetry and the author of Juniper Fuse: Upper Paleolithic Imagination & the Construction of the Underworld. Between 1979 and 1986, Eshleman was a regular reviewer for The Los Angeles Times Book Review, contributing 51 articles on books by Rilke, Whitman, Bishop, Olson, Milosz, Montale, Ashbery and many others. He has translated books by Pablo Neruda, Antonin Artaud, Vladimir Holan, Michel Deguy and Bernard Bador. Eshleman has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, two Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and several research Fellowships from Eastern Michigan University. The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition most recently received the 2008 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets.

We were sorry to learn of Clayton Eshleman’s passing in late January, 2021. Wesleyan University Press pays excellent tribute to Eshleman and his achievements in poetry and translation here.

The Complete Poetry: A Bilingual Edition

University of California Press
2008 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

When Mario Vargas Llosa refers to the work of Clayton Eshleman as a sort of heroic enterprise, he is hitting the target – life given as an act of love.

When Mario Vargas Llosa refers to the work of Clayton Eshleman as a sort of heroic enterprise, he is hitting the target – life given as an act of love. Here are more than five decades of perseverance, polishing and devotion to translation of someone who has been called inexplicable. And if we had untranslatability, we have what would seem to be an impossible task. Eshleman’s versions deserve not only praise, but many readers. Without boasting about talent, intelligence, ear, or personal creative powers, he has applied these characteristics to the meticulous, slow, unrewarding, never sufficiently recognized or valued work of an ant constructing a palace. Most important, he has followed Cid Corman’s teachings: respect for the original, verification and confirmation not only of what one recognizes as alien or unknown, but of which one seems to know, invention of words in English that will work in a way similar to the Spanish words coined by Vallejo, absolute awareness of the fact that one is creating something else, a different music, different possibilities of sound, wanting only to stay level with the original intentions, turning the already said into something sayable again. The result has been the wonderfully rendered complete work of a very complex poet in terms of imagination and style, of multilayered registers – a poet who aspires to wholeness of expression, the world and his perception as the same thing, full of ambivalence and contradiction, a poet who deep down didn’t want to be translated, having enormous doubts as to the capacity even of one’s own language to confront sadness and human grief. Eshleman has opened, as have few others, a window to another life, a new one, not necessarily his nor Vallejo’s.