Tarta Americana

Museum of the Americas

In the Garden of the Bridehouse



“J. Michael Martinez’s expanding oeuvre so often investigates and overturns the high and low mythologies of the intersection between Latinidad and U.S. imperialisms: in Tarta Americana, Martinez brings this analysis home and into the intimate space of fandom, queer desire and inscription. This book is Gen X ecstatic in its ambitious formal range and showcases Martinez’s love affair with the sublimity of language at all its registers. Tarta takes us into “You language,” as a discourse meant to deliver us more deeply into a new form of lyric autohistoria-teoria in what is Martinez’s best work yet.” —Carmen Giménez

“For too long, literary critics have explained Hispanic American literature as concerned mainly with “hybridity.” But the extreme warping of our political landscape demands the discovery and harnessing of new cultural properties. Enter the master of multi-perspectival narrative. J. Michael Martinez has constructed an epic…Tarta Americana is not only a riveting poetic-biopic of Richie Valens, but a way of understanding culture-making itself.” —Rodrigo Toscano

“In Tarta Americana, the celluloid and actual Ritchie Valens serve Martinez as body double and secret sharer, the shape-shifting persona who walks us through the cloaca of the political present and media sphere, through our unlived life in the industries of desire. Ritchie Valens’ ‘We Belong Together’ in the key of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Ritchie Valens as Rilkean angel and Orphic repository. Ritchie Valens as the recipient of a centerpiece epistolary sequence that further proliferates into many-sided embodiments ever larger than life—the ‘story-shape’ exuberant and relentless in Martinez’ quest to integrate what was broken or torn apart. The sonic register spans from the caustic vision of Mexican folk balladry with its existential vacilada to the custodies of ixiptla as presence and making present, and the maximalist cascade of ‘one more nonlinear,  / sweat stained star-  / lit night pulsing  / police lights  / across the rain streaked  / windshield where our most furious  / apprehensions  / blur all Rothko red . . . y arriba y arriba.” —Roberto Tejada

“’Flying guitar, what we knew is you flew,’ says the speaker in J. Michael Martinez’s dazzling, book-length, riff—code-switched—of Don McLean’s iconic song, lamenting the day the music died. Yes, Martinez deploys his signature array of formats and linguistic registers, only here his focus is one Richard Valenzuela AKA Ritchie Valens—a brilliant epistolary lens, through which the poet offers his most personal and vulnerable poemario to date…we are movingly persuaded when, in the end, the poet says: ‘These pages /are my hands, / you’re holding / my hands.’” —Francisco Aragón

“Ravenous, cinematic, lost to angsty doldrums of rollerblading ‘past Hollywood Video's rows/of Styrofoam VHS dreams’— this is Tarta Americana, a love letter.  Martinez craves a deeper connection, past the iconography of a talent who died tragically and too young: the further Martinez ‘scrapes the narrative’ from his own skin, the more something more intimate than the myth of a man emerges, something ‘outside time, ear into the soft, it is this emptiness I want: our sacred outside existing only in each other.’” —Rosebud Ben-Oni

“Richie Valens, immortalized for La Bomba and Donna, dead at 17 in a plane accident, is here both patron saint and proxy-self, and Tarta Americana is both bildungsroman and protest song, a story of family and love, of the pain of growing up, and wide-eyed witness to the casual racism that culminates in cruel violence. In poems that pulse with a lyricism so bright is borders on the technicolor, this gifted poet gives to us what poetry and song have given him: ‘twin consolations to the noise.’” —Dan Beachy-Quick


"Diorama-like, this book displays what has been, in American culture, displayed, and thereby displaced. It is at once a natural history of American racism and colonialism, utterly devastating in its cumulative impact, and a gorgeous mash-up of genres and forms: bold, light, and ruthlessly smart." 
Dan Chiasson, 
The New Yorker, "The Poetry I was Grateful for in 2018"

“This marvelous, argumentative and curiosity-provoking book is itself best thought of as a kind of corrective cabinet of wonders, one whose portraits and specimens complicate the dominant narratives of imperial conquest and control . . . Martinez’s approach is as brainy as it is entertaining, as political as it is personal.” 
—Kathleen Rooney, 
The New York Times Book Review

“Masterful . . . Martinez’s poems are dynamic personal doxologies of Mexican-American tradition and inheritance . . . Ambitious and historical, Martinez’s book earns praise.” 
— Nick Ripatrazone, 
The Millions

“[A] fascinating hybrid collection that explores how current events reflect long-held prejudices about Mexicans and people of color.” 
—The Washington Post

“A beautiful, personal, well-conceived, and historically contextualized indictment of empire, the aestheticization of biopolitics, and the white gaze.”
— Publishers Weekly

"[A] showcase for some smoldering linguistic skills and a powerful argument against racism." 
The Santa Barbara Independent

“J. Michael Martinez’s visionary lyricism lands like a dark amber lightning bolt on the ivory blade of the American poetic genome, sparking a poesis of radiant mutations that we always dreamed possible---but wondered if they could ever truly transpire.  With echoes of Pound and Melville, Paz and Borges and more, he forges a sui generis poetics of mestizo becoming that ranges from anatomizing pre-Columbian deities to memories of his Mexican American grandmother’s funeral, with all of the atrocities and wonders that have passed between.  Museum of the Americas offers a borderless American Genesis story that begins in Tenochtitlán, rather than Plymouth Rock.  It feels like a tale we’ve been waiting to be told.”
— John Phillip Santos

“This is a fascinating, layered collection of poetry that blurs genre in some really interesting ways. Martinez offers, as the title suggests, a museum of the Americas, and especially engages with Mexican migration and its effect on the body. Given the goings on of the world, this poetry is especially timely. Every piece in this book offers something beautiful or haunting or illuminating; every thought, every word, every image is precisely rendered.” 
— Roxane Gay

“J. Michael Martinez may call this stunning collection a museum, but once you enter, it’ll feel more like a dip into a repository of fun house mirrors; our entwined histories here are pushed, pulled, elongated, and always reflected straight back, with laser sharpness, to the reader’s gaze. It is a book perfectly crafted to meet the complicated days we are living through.” 
— Cornelius Eady

"J. Michael Martinez’s poetics is at once direct, critically incisive, and aesthetically adventurous. This collection is brimming with the enigma of social agency as manifested through culture. Museum of the Americas stands as a beacon for how the impulse towards radical democratic vision and practices can be tracked by a bold reformatting of historicity that speaks to our current moment.”
 Rodrigo Toscano

"The book’s larger cultural issues will get a lot of attention, and they should, as they deepen the conversation, but what has stayed with me most are the very personal poems in this book, about Martinez and his father and his grandmother, which serve as great tributes to their lives." 
— Alex Dueben, 
The Rumpus 


“Martinez has essentially raised the bar for both the learned writer and the learned reader.”—Rigoberto González, author of Red-Inked Retablos

"A precarious altar. A mythopoeic, fractal grafting. In the Garden of the Bridehouse reseeds myths, languages, Americas."—Joe Hall, author of The Devotional Poems

“Martinez enlivens gender configurations, surpassing male-female dualities of natural and cultural conception, to construct a psychological space: an architecture of creation.”—Roberto Tejada, author of Full Foreground

“Self-portraits as anima, time-travel, wounded swans, In the Garden of the Bridehouse is a mutilated garden of Eden, one that more accurately represents our gender fractures, our material desires, our fall, and our arrival as song.”—Andrea Rexilius, author of Half of What They Carried Flew Away

“Martinez offers intimate, introspective looks inside his speakers while simultaneously casting a critical eye across culture, history, and identity politics. Truly a collection to be digested in full measure.”—Booklist

“Poems scatter across the page in starburst shape, with fragments often disconnected spatially and syntactically. Pay attention, though, and you'll hear the music (some of the poems are even musical scores) and see the glowing, tactile beauty in these intensive pieces.”—Library Journal


"In J. Michael Martinez's Heredities, history is unsettled by way of the visionary hybridity that is Martinez's method of poetic inquiry. The poems explore with a passionate lyric gorgeousness the borderlands between myth and memory, between plunder and inheritance, between the story we tell and the story we deny--this violent story of regeneration we call America."
Eric Pankey

"In Heredities, Martinez mines various linguistic, mythological, and historical narratives that 'complete themselves in one another.' Both corporeal and heady, this collection marries the earth to the word, and revises how a twenty-first-century identity is forged with and through the past. Martinez is not only a fine poet but is also a dedicated anthropologist with the ability to excavate language from the ruins of history."
Carmen Gimenez