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Like Houston’s Inprint, Gemini Ink in San Antonio provides writing classes, hosts readings, and supports writers in the community. When Tim O’Brien, Ha Jin, Grace Paley and Margaret Atwood burrow their way to Texas, the literary organizations offer them the stage. But bookstores, like Houston’s Brazos or San Antonio’s Twig, are the cultivators of the literary scene.

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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