Poetry News

Roberto Tejada Interviews Rodrigo Toscano at BOMB

By Harriet Staff


Who knew that Roberto Tejada used to be mistaken for Rodrigo Toscano on the regular, because they share the same first and last initials?

As Tejada points out with such humility at the start of his interview with Toscano for BOMB Magazine:

Once upon a time, before everybody’s face splashed across the social media, and on more than one public occasion, I saw myself politely having to let acquaintances know they had me mistaken for the other avant-garde Latino—Rodrigo Toscano. Of course, same initials, I understand, on the contrary, I’m flattered, he’s better looking, among our best poets, and a competitive distance runner.

Rodrigo and I met in 1998 when Bay Area writers Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian had us read together for Small Press Traffic at the Yerba Buena Arts Center in San Francisco. Rodrigo was active in West Coast literary scenes before relocating to New York City in 1999; and poems later featured in Partisans (O Books, 1999) were already appearing in the journals that defined our generation such as Chain, Tripwire, and Apex of the M.

I was ambivalent about alliances overly obedient to the formal trappings or cultural authority of the dominant US avant-garde and its so-called realisms. But Toscano’s work had something more: an imaginative interest in the excess and contradictions of the neo-liberal project and its foreshortened social stagecraft, as viewed from Latin America’s cultural legacy. Since then, he has developed these and other related themes in books that include The Disparities (Green Integer, 2002); Platform (Atelos, 2003); To Leveling Swerve (Krupskaya. 2004); and Collapsible Poetics Theater (National Poetry Series; Fence Books, 2008).

On BOMB, Tejada interviews Toscano, as Toscano's newest book, Deck of Deeds (Counterpath, 2012) has just been released. Tejada writes:

As a bilingual Latino—that is, as an insider-outsider in both languages—Rodrigo’s especially equipped to capture the way US English couches language in affable everyday personalities, but in voices also perplexed by the dynamics of technological, social, and economic change. Our conversation shape-shifted to reflect his poetics: from consumer culture as a disguise for the democratic process, to equating unstable body morphologies and political corruption with the ossified forms of avant-garde practice.

Read their complete conversation at BOMB.

Originally Published: June 24th, 2013