In this collection of essays and lyric manifestos published by Noemi Press in 2019, Roberto Tejada re-envisions an extensive breadth of history by engaging with narratives across American landscapes of colonial brutality and theft. The uneven relationships of dispossession that haunt this hemisphere are illuminated by way of a vast collection of writers and artists in this book. From the imperial encounters of Cabeza de Vaca and Mary Rowlandson, to the media constructed spectacle of Elian Gonzalez’s migration that highlight the ambivalence of hospitality in the borderlands; to George Oppen and Anita Brenner writing from Mexico in their unique vantage point for unveiling hidden figures of a colonial past; and the neo-baroque poetry of Cuban José Lezama Lima as well as innovative Los Angeles based writer and artist Harry Gamboa Jr., in their work of complex and diffuse masculinities. These essays reveal a relationship between history and metaphor as a discourse which extends back beyond the present, in the hope for a voluptuous Latinx poetics of social imperative.
Kin to Eduoard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation, Roberto Tejada’s Still Nowhere in an Empty Vastness charts a counter-conquest through transhistorical and transcultural waters to trace the competing desires, dazzling simulations, and “ostensible selfhoods” that have informed—and continue to activate—a Poetics of the Americas. The remarkable breadth of these essays—joining colonial encounter narratives with the media spectacle occasioned by Elián González’s arrival on U.S. shores—stimulates with its pleasure of inquiry and richness of form. And with its needle trembling toward a ‘future imperfect,’ it satisfies with an unfolding relevance to our current political and cultural moment.
—Rosa Alcalá, author of Undocumentaries and MyOTHER TONGUE
Roberto Tejada’s stunning survey demonstrates that our contemporary “crisis” (rendered in border walls and family separations) constitutes no exception to the politics of the Americas. Still Nowhere in an Empty Vastness considers a poetics of encounters (“the historically contingent events by which a subject is shaped”) across the contact zones of the Americas, offering “provisional glimmers” across a variety of poetic and image-making practices. Tejada lays claim to an ever-present exile, as subjectivities are wrought and dismantled on the wreckage of utopias. And from this elsewhere, Still Nowhere makes clear the imperative that our poetics and our politics must be bound to alternative modes of self-fashioning.
—Susan Briante, author of The Market Wonders and Defacing the Monument
Throughout these elegant, devastating essays, Roberto Tejada illuminates the fantasies Europeans brought with them as they contacted and colonized the New World. These illusions—repressed, sexual, and manifest in explosive violence and bloodshed—have never ceased haunting this landscape and its people. But the essays collected here are also powerful meditations on varied American masculinities, timely innocence, and the gaze. Engaging with classic texts—from La relación of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca (1542) and A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson (1682) to Williams’s In the American Grain and José Lezama Lima’s La expresión americana—Tejada’s criticism will soon find its place among the seminal texts that continue to reflect and define the Americas.
—Peter Ramos, author of Lord Baltimore and Poetic Encounters in the Americas: Remarkable Bridge
Tejada offers a thoroughgoing interrogation of modernity—which he understands as a violent mode of ‘making it new’ whose most significant gesture was the colonization of what has come to be known as the Americas. It is from this perspective that he seeks to interrogate the teleologies of progress articulated in various quarters of the hemisphere, and to examine the ways in which these are addressed and assessed in literary (not always poetic) writing (…) even as it proceeds through more associative, experimental, and practice-based techniques.