Arriving by vessels that landed at Vera Cruz in the sixteenth-century, conquistadors proffered mirrors to natives of Mexico in exchange for gold. Five hundred years after the initial contact between Europe and this other world, Mirrors for Gold was written in Mexico City from 1988 to 1992. Today these poems speak directly—perhaps more so given the time elapsed—to historical duration and the vicissitudes of cultural certainty. Awake then to the valuations ensuing stateside on avant-garde practice and identity politics, Roberto Tejada looked as well to the geographies of lyric address in the Americas, venturing his own ground, fashioning a language specific to questions of medium and social markers. In the ever-receding present of Mirrors for Gold, human debility and bodily promise play out an opulent scenario of surrender and defiance.
Strange and sensual, a driving rhythm measures the “reckless velocity of the social” in matters of sexual command. With Mirrors for Gold Tejada disavows all that precludes us from imagining what cannot be known, even as he betrays the smooth reflecting surface of private or public representation. With Mexico as mîse-en-scene, experience materializes here in erotic translation—cultural romance in excess of self, family, and state. Here, seamless union is provisional: form and subject, sense and sound, voice and environs. Each poem enacts the desire it nominates—as much between men as between writer and reader, place and displacement, citizen and stranger—in as many endeavors to arrive at an end as we can only endure: unending.
Roberto Tejada was born in Los Angeles, California (1964). From 1987 to 1997 he lived and worked in Mexico City where he founded the journal Mandorla: New Writing From the Americas, a forum for advanced poetry and translation. His work has been widely published in the United States and Latin America, including Vuelta (Octavio Paz, publisher), The Best American Poetry 1996 (Adrienne Rich, editor), and 99 Poets | 1999: An International Poetics Symposium (boundary 2, Charles Bernstein, editor). He teaches Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the University of California, San Diego, where he is faculty in the Visual Arts Department.