J. Michael Martinez’s third book, Museum of the Americas, won the 2017 National Poetry Series Competition, but its contents are unapologetically, excitingly hybrid, including prose, lineated verse, vintage postcards and black-and-white photographs. Thus, perhaps, 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 ... Like a curator overseeing a show, Martinez gives readers the sense that each item he incorporates has been carefully selected and thoughtfully juxtaposed with the ones around it ... Martinez’s approach is as brainy as it is entertaining, as political as it is personal ... Martinez’s power as a memoirist is considerable as well ... In this thrillingly genre-blurring book, Martinez evokes both senses of that etymology: The poetic delights suggest the presence of the Muses, and the items upon which he encourages the reader to focus produce a fresh and necessary gallery that rivets both the interest and the intellect.
J. Michael Martinez interweaves short, analytical prose pieces and poetic inquiry ... This fascinating hybrid collection explores how current events reflect long-held prejudices about Mexicans and people of color, as evidenced by Mexican casta paintings and the lynching postcards of Walter H. Horne. Throughout the work the speaker relays his concern and frustration about how he and other Mexican Americans continue to be classified and objectified.
These deviations [from lyrical language] aren’t necessarily a shortcoming because explanations are necessary for creating sutures from the wound of erasure and false depiction. Yet, it is through this travel and explicit historization that readers can feel like the journey is too heavy ... Museum of the Americas is not a routine text, and the bread the poet bakes from the necessary ingredients of personal and political evocations is something a distressed American public hungers for—even when it is a little chewy.