“Poetry is the way of experiencing the world outside of the everyday commercial expectations that are made of us,” says University of Houston professor Roberto Tejada, who in April was awarded a 2021 Guggenheim fellowship for his work-in-progress poetry collection “Carbonate of Copper.”
In this “Being Texan” video, we follow Tejada from the lecture hall to a makeshift library overflowing with books, journals, and a daybook he’s been keeping for twenty years. In the daybook, he writes down transcriptions of dreams, notes from his readings, and resonant turns of phrase that he might come back to many years later—“Carbonate of Copper,” for instance, was born out of a 1995 entry. Tejada performs that poem for us and walks us through its layers of meaning.
“I want everyone to be able to inhabit that identity of a poet,” he says. “When we read someone’s work, we become that person—we’re able to inhabit and empathize [with] and, hopefully, interact from the standpoint of someone else.”