In February of 2006, I had the honor of reading at Writer's Week at UC Riverside, an institution, when I think about it, has produced more than its fair share of distinguished Latino/a writers. It was during my visit, for example, that I got to meet, for the first time, Alex Espinoza and Michael Jaime-Becerra. It was also during that visit that I met, and spent some time with, Ruben Quesada:
from the back cover:
What Ruben Quesada calls “the next extinct mammal in America” might well be the animal who mourns loss or, more to the point, the poet—incurable romantic who dares ask, “Where has it all gone, the roll-away television, the lost morning?” And so this beautiful first book of poems, an ode to nostalgia, a lyrical account of things that shouldn’t be left behind: youth and childhood adventures, family and homeland, people now dead, conversations—“every sentence, every whisper”—now silent. In the age of forgetting “there is nothing left but your heartbeat in your ears.” But in the beating heart, Quesada finds a rhythm to launch memory into glorious, persevering song.
Like Whitman, Quesada is a poet of motion—journeying to the center of the US, where the traditions and innovations of first-generation Americans traverse the meditative starbursts of hills; ford rivers; cross prairies; and seek out “alpenglow of tomorrow and tomorrow.” From Costa Rica to Los Angeles and across the continent, Quesada’s poems chronicle one family’s history: from the courtship of his parents to their separation, from his childhood struggles to awakening desire from his mother’s lottery winnings to his own personal losses, Ruben Quesada carries us toward “that seam in space” where dream and experience intersect. This isn’t the story of what it means to come to this country. It’s the story of what it means to belong here.
Quesada writes the city, the flesh and cosmos—if they can be aligned in that manner with a knife, that is, with the impeccable clarity and edge. The eye here, at times, notices relationship with the optics of Sarte’s mid-twentieth-century anti-hero, Antoine Roquentin, a writer alone in the streets charting meaninglessness in a decaying metropolis. Yet, for Quesada, things and their substance are not fixed; they seem to smother as part of a “fractured flowering,” or eros, death, and spiraling “flecks” and “blurred prints” of love and being. This is, perhaps, the poetry of the new decade. There is no other as naked, bold and powerful as Quesada. A magnificent, riveting, tour de force.
—Juan Felipe Herrera
“[Y]our half-opened mouth / welcomed me / even years after your death.” That is: the poet mines a photograph for “memories which stray to the heart” for what indeed feels like a “fractured flowering” throughout this collection: a working mother’s “face breaks into blossom” at seeing her children at the end of a long day; a speaker remembers a married lover (“Memories are Made Like This”); or from a hospital room a speaker in the US recalls “Tia Teticia’s porch in Costa Rica.” Ruben Quesada’s subjects, in other words, are ample and rich—his poems crafted with poignancy and grace.”
Order your copy HERE
In the works: an interview with Ruben Quesada
conducted by Lauro Vasquez