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david tomas martinez
“Memory,” says David Tomás Martínez, “is a funny thing, a knife we use to whittle our own narratives.”

Martínez, born to a 16-year-old mother in 1976 (who in turn was the daughter of a teenage mother) gangbanged in his native Southern California from age 15 to 20.

“I started to pull away then,” he said, “but still considered myself a gang member, even if I was not active, for many years afterwards.”

He had always liked to read, however — “I saw learning, being smart, as a rejection of vulnerability,” he said — and at 20 began a circuitous route from the U.S. Navy to Job Corps to college, which eventually landed him at the University of Houston. He will finish his doctorate in a year.

Martínez’s debut collection, “Hustle,” is raw and real, full of indelible imagery and lethal language. He will give a free public reading and participate in a luncheon conversation with novelist Robert Boswell on Thursday and Friday as part of Gemini Ink’s Autograph Series. He recently spoke with the Express-News.

Q. Is “Hustle” an accurate depiction of your journey from the barrio to the classroom to published poet?

A. “Hustle” chronicles many of the experiences I had during these years. I didn’t write poetry while I was in a gang; however, I have always had a curious mind and was then drawn to power, be it physical, mental or whatever, so even then I would come home at night and try to read philosophy that was completely impenetrable for my level of education then. I guess I equated knowledge with power…

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Can Poetry Change the World?

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Poet Sheila Black brings experience, energy to Gemini Ink
By Steve Bennett

In early December, Sheila Black gave a reading of her poetry at Gemini Ink, the Southtown literary organization she’d taken the reins of as executive director a few months earlier.

“She was decked out quite elegantly,” recalls Lee Robinson, a Gemini Ink board member and respected poet in her own right. “Lovely dress, pearls, flowing silk shawl — but when the shawl got in her way she just threw it off and kept reading. That’s the kind of grace you can’t fake.”

A couple of minutes after meeting Black, who is bright, effusive and passionate, you realize there’s nothing fake about her.

Over a recent two-hour interview, she seamlessly worked Jane Austen, V.S. Naipaul, Stendahl and Keats into the conversation, while worrying over her kids getting acclimated to schools in a new city, fretting about fundraising and talking openly about her lifelong struggle with X-linked hypophosphatemia (XLH), a rare, genetic bone disease that stunts growth and still makes walking difficult for Black. She wore braces as a child and had a surgery at 13 in which her legs were broken and reset… Read more at mysanantonio.com

 

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