Soon after expatriating to Italy, Peruvian poet Jorge Eduardo Eielson produced the short 10-poem collection Mutatis Mutandis (1954)1. There are evident links between the aesthetic of this work & that of dark night of the body. The title is in Latin & can be interpreted “this change, provided all other variables remain constant.”
What’s so refreshing about Eielson’s poetry is its sincerely human drive. For Eielson, poetry is the union of the soul and the universe, whereas a “poem” is the separation of the same. However, this cosmic outlook on the creation of poetry is not the mere guise of an avant-garde attention-seeker; it is a deep-rooted belief that “there is but one possible way to write a poem: to forget about the words.”2
In Mutatis Mutandis, there is a certain sense of “unmaking,” not unlike the poetic process Julio Orgeta has observed in Trilce by César Vallejo, Eielson’s forefather. Whereas this poetic process of unmaking, at the hand of Vallejo, leads one on a poetic adventure that tests the limits of human feeling (in the face of love, loss & uncertainty), at Eielson’s hand, this “adventure” loses its direction, goes nowhere, writers & erases an ultra-simplistic landscape of cut-out figures (i.e. birds… dry leaves… wind). For Eielson, as for Vallejo, poetry is not the instrument of the soul by which it attains cosmic union; poetry itself is this union, & the poem is merely the instrument.
1.The Spanish text used as a source for the English translation appears in Poeta en Roma, by Jorge Eduardo Eielson (ed. Martha L. Canfield. Visor: Madrid, 2009).
2. This quote is taken from Para una preparación poética (For Poetic Training), first published in El Comercio, Sunday suplement, 15 September 1955.