Jorge Eielson #06 – De Materia Verbalis (complete)

Composed between 1957 & 1958, De Materia Verbalis comes after Mutatis Mutandis (1954) & dark night of the body (1955). If we think about it in a painter’s terms, it represnts the third leaf of a triptych. As in the previous two leaves, the imagery is ultra-mundane, hence the blond-haired doll narrator’s sister dresses, his brother on a bike & that grandmother asleep in a chair. [1] Therefore, one immediate question the poetry forces us to ask is what we make of this simplicity? What does it say about Eielson’s stance toward poetic technique? & how does this form relate to what we see in the earlier works––Room in Rome (1952) & The Blood & Wine of Paul (1953)?

The title De Materia Verbalis [2] is in Latin & can be translated as ‘On Verbal Matter’ or ‘On the Matter of Words.’ Eielson brings his poetic discourse into the context of the written act itself. Reflection reaches new heights. The poet hovers. He writes & erases. He wonders what he can add to silence but silence, more silence, only silence. [3]

The thirteen poems that make up this important collection mark the end of a poetic form which crosscuts the three mentioned works. After De Materia Verbalis, Eielson completed Dead Nature (1958), where the extreme abbreviation of the poem––there are many two liners––contains a certain pith & robustness that brings to mind Tree of Diana (1962) by Alejandra Pizarnik.

In any case, today I’m presenting De Materia Verbalis in English translation. This work in progress marks the third collection by Eielson in this online anthology. I hope you enjoy it, & if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to post a comment.

1. The English translation presented here is based off the Spanish text of De Materia Verbalis, included in Poeta en Roma (ed. Martha L. Canfield. Madrid: Visor, 2009).

2. See the poem “I dream that I write        & while dream,” where the poet wonders if his past is merely “a relentless tornado of blue atoms / That my heart & my head can’t comprehend.”

3. See the poem “Somebody says,” where the poet insists: “I write solely / I solely write.”

This entry was posted in Jorge Eduardo Eielson, Trans. from Spanish and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Jorge Eielson #06 – De Materia Verbalis (complete)

  1. Joseph says:


    Luke Williamson has pointed out a mistranslation of “sube y baja” (knows & goes down), which should read “goes up & down.”

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