Blood Was Beating: Ludwig Zeller’s The Rules of the Game

The Chilean born poet, Ludwig Zeller, emigrated to Canada in 1971. He lived in and around Toronto until 1993, at which time he and his wife moved to Mexico. Now 86 years old, Zeller has lived the transgressive (trans: Latin noun for across, beyond, or on opposite side) life of a true aesthete. A unique translocal writer within the Canadian poetic and within the international poetic, Zeller’s surrealism makes one’s blood beat.

It’s funny that in the very first poem, “Childhood’s House,” Zeller already has a preoccupation with movement: “when the day and hope, like hurrying travelers, had passed us by.” The turning of motifs acts like a movement exercise; a transcoherent symbolism unravels and renews itself throughout his long practice. Another motif is sight—as for the poem, “Fire,” “you ate the ancient suns of worn-out seeing and I see you hidden in a thousand bodies.” Zeller can barely comprehend his sublime vision. For instance, in “An Unbelievable Patient” he writes: “in the depths: / “I’m blind and dumb, now I can’t even hear you… / my bones are eroding in the air.”

By The Rules of the Game (1968), Zeller’s third book of poetry, a reader truly begins to succumb to his “game of truths.” I feel his writing imprinting on my imagination with a blanket of crushed logomorphic velvet. In a “Wealth to Count,” “a thread winds into the skein of all knots: the blood…to leave the labyrinth, to enter it, are one.” We travel along Zeller’s landscape of poetic virtual surrealist reality. Then, finally, by “Triumph of Oedipus,” “someone smiles at the torture.”

At times all the talk about blood, torture, and knives becomes melodramatic. His relationship with the voyage of life is a love/hate relationship, not unlike his poems about women. By 1987’s The Ghost’s Tattoos, his poetry has an unquestionable corporeal texture, as given through titles like “Image of Doubt,” “Lover and Cannibal,” and “Sketches of Insanity.”

The first book of poetry that Zeller published in Canada, entitled When The Animal Rises From the Deep The Head Explodes (1976), suggests his surfacing from 8 years without publishing a book, very rare for such a prolific writer. This collection also marks the disappearance of the ‘traveler’ references. It morphs into rain and kinetic movement. But coming from the heated Chilean political scene of the 60s and 70s, Zeller instinctively and blindly notices the “uncertainty of place,” “with no eyes I can see the knife… of truths.”

The Comet Returns is unparalleled surrealist verse: “you and I under the earth, / indifferent, will sleep one inside the other, with our bones / braided into the dust, bleached by lime and forgetting.” Moritz chooses “Bees Against The Window” to start fading Zeller’s tomtom that beats the words: “Is there an invisible thread, a harmony that comes / from the skin of your wings? Your tears / evoke a perfume now grown strange.” Strange because it resonates in the reader too.

jesse chase is a conceptual artist whose work has been published and exhibited in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. He has an unpublished language poem novel entitled synonymous x. Check him out at


Arc between the Canadian poetic and the international poetic!


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