Interview by Nicole Romero
David Tomas Martinez is a San Diego native and poet, having earned his BA and MFA at San Diego State University. Far from his hometown, he currently resides in Houston where he has completed his doctoral studies at the University of Houston. In addition to his poetry background, Martinez is also an editor at Gulf Coast Magazine. His debut collection of poems, Hustle, provides readers with his experiences as a young miscreant in San Diego. Stealing cars, participating in gang activity, and roaming the streets for trouble are just some of the life events that he had to master in order to put himself on the right track. With that lifestyle far behind him, David reflects on his past through his poetry. His poems are very real, giving the reader a sense of what was going through his head as a young Latino learning about life through trial and error. Upon being introduced to David via email, I asked if I could briefly interview him in regards to his recently published collection of poetry. His response: “I can do it. No problem, homegirl.” His reply seems to reveal that although he has left his troublesome life behind, he is still fun and easygoing. In addition to his street credibility, he has now gained himself a reputation as a published poet.
Your book, Hustle, shares so many of your personal memories and you frequently mention family members throughout this collection of poems. How did your family react when they read this piece for the first time?
My family has been very supportive of Hustle, so I have been very fortunate about that; however, even if I knew they would be angry, I would still write whatever I felt “needed” to be written. I care and love my family, which they know, so I’m pretty certain they would be open to just about anything I wrote. Also, my family was there during difficult periods in my life, so they know it wont be pretty. Though my aunt did ask my mother, “if really did all those things.”
Have you always been a poet or have your past experiences helped you to uncover your talent?
I never considered myself a poet, nor did I consider myself particularly artistic. What I did consider myself- is capable, and I trusted that if worked hard enough, I could become a professional poet. I have also been very fortunate that others have recognized my penchant for language and have helped cultivate it in me. That was true at SDSU and is still true in Houston.
New environments usually tend to give individuals more freedom and allow the past to get tucked into a safe corner. Do you feel that living in Houston has given you a clean slate to start over?
Location doesn’t change anything inside, all the work must be done before a move. Moving to Houston has shifted my perspective about things, but that is because I had never really left San Diego. That was an inevitable aspect of changing locations.
Do you plan to work on anything similar to what you published in Hustle?
I have begun my next manuscript, and there are poems similar to Hustle, but I also believe I am a better writer now, and an evolution will be seen in my next book.
Last but not least (because this is always my favorite question), what are you reading right now?
I am reading Kenneth Rexroth’s collected essays, Donald Hall’s Their Ancient Glittering Eyes, Terrance Hayes’ Wind in the Box, and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red. I usually read multiple books at a time. It gives me variation. Also, I am usually reading some sort of poetry and a book of criticism or philosophy.
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