Some Insider Tips, a preface
by Juan Felipe Herrera
“You gotta have your tips on fire.”
In Diego Luna, every line speaks and leaves us asking for more. Every image is careful and carefree. Every stanza is elusive and kind to the following stanza—the breath is completely exhaled. In some cases there is the question mark, in others the enjambment; however, you must be on the lookout for a “hard cut” or a montage. After a while, you even forget you are reading. When you stop, you truly stop, not because you are tired, or bored, or trudging along: you become still because something incredible has happened. Think of Jorge Negrete’s “roses” in the poem, “The Day Jorge Negrete Died in LA.” Here, the famous Mexican singer of the ‘40s and ‘50s serenades the speaker’s Aunt Emma. He ascends a ladder and, with “white roses in hand,/declares his love” for her and is denied when she “tosses the roses back.” Negrete is left at the heights of his offering. In a sense, here is a poem about the convergence of two potential worlds, yet within those orbs, the giver and the receiver never forge an attached bond. Although touched, the roses never are received or kept in the house of the loved one.
The “roses” remain suspended in the air, floating in the mists of time, song, and desire. In a way, this is one of the keys to Rosaldo’s delicate art. The work is not merely laying out its wares in the middle of the street for us to retrieve at any hour. You cannot own it or even take it with you. It is carried over to us in a heightened manner; it can only reside and flutter in front of us—as a delight seen in flight. This is, perhaps, where Lorca comes in: the poet as duende, as a fiery singer-seer who circles in our midst, below us and above us and, when he faces us, if only for a moment, we are enchanted.
Luna, as the speaker, performer, father, investigator, and lover, is classy
and edgy. Diego is a kind of Pachuko O’Hara, strolling, even giggling,
in his own swagger art, down the New
York streets. Yes, there are O’Hara appetites and, perhaps more so, there are Lorca estrangements, yet Luna’s off-balance gait is his compass simply because all else is akimbo—without love.
When you meet Diego close-up, you notice that he is not O’Hara at all, that he has cornered you into the dangerous margins of a distant mountain. Then you slip, you fall, you fail, with his grief and his desires and his nakedness into the vastness and emptiness of a heart that is prepared to die and then, if possible, blossom.
Luna is the tribesman who comes back to pull you out of your worldly entanglements.
You know this when he alerts you to your life-road constructions as “built
for us monkeys.” So you laugh—what else can you do? Then, Pachuko Diego drops his attire, leaving his varying vaudeville behind—his trickster texts, memoir, double-voiced lyric, hybrid narrative forms—and escorts you, at the end of the show, behind the curtains, to the Matrix—the write-wiring, his Chuko- Chaser’s circuit-board of sign-delight, where the “tips” are fissioned and fashioned as in a screen-play. Of course, you would not expect that from a Pachuko-Lorca-O’Hara—yes you would, but you never would imagine it: breathy camera angles, fleshy close-ups, pop-culture hard cuts and rapid lusty montages—the naughty-noir of it all, the sexy suspects, the death-steps of it all.
But it’s not over. After your stroll, Diego Pachuko leaves you in a radical locale. You are teetering on that cliff again. But you are not teetering. You are where you are at last. You have climbed Nietzsche’s highest mountain, except it is ancient Chinese—it is soaked in the Tao, in the moment world where all that you see is illusion. You have lost Lorca and O’Hara; you are now your own Diego, your own Pachukada. At the “tip” of the mountain you are stillness itself; you come to realize your wobbly other “insider”—“I can hear his voice deepen/as he finds his song.” Your heart is moving. Your life is walking—without effort. Renato Rosaldo is a master at work giving us a pioneering and groundbreaking contribution, an enchanting challenge for decades to come.
—Juan Felipe Herrera,
Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair in Poetry
University of California, Riverside