David Tomas Martinez is a San Francisco-native and Pushcart Prize winning poet. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York, teaching creative writing at Columbia University. His 2014 debut poetry collection: Hustle received The New England Book Festival’s prize in poetry and The Devil’s Kitchen Reading Award. In 2015, Martinez was awarded the Verlaine Poetry Prize from Inprint. His most recent 2018 collection, Post Traumatic Hood Disorder, has been well-received in the literary community.
Martinez’s poetry masterfully mixes diverse influences and high-low cultural references together all within stream-of consciousness style prose. If you are looking for a poet that vacillates between the political: referencing figures like Chavez, the religious: bringing in Adam and Eve, the mythological: alluding to Greek legend, and the more pop-culture based as seen in nods to musicians like Juicy J., and movies like Twilight, look no further. One thing the reader will never be is bored when they enter into Martinez’s mind.
Despite his highly associative writing form, he pays great attention to poetic structure. The use of white-space in the collection and strategic line-breaks, generally furthers the themes of the poems they appear within.
One poem where I saw short enjambed lines working particularly well was “Super Heterosexual Me Wears Women’s Jeans Because The First Time.” Based on the title there is clear irony and foreshadowing to potentially homosexual activity; the poem does not disappoint. Lines like “They joked about/being straight/off the boat” employ double entrendre and do work to advance the poem’s themes and cheeky tone. The personification of objects like the phone as ringing “bareback” and the sofa moaning “as loudly as we did” make the poem effective and interesting.
In “In Defence of Poetic Voice,” the use of white space produces a kind of comical effect that mirrors the poem’s intent of satirizing the dramatic poetry reading. The amount of spacing placed between words and phrases cause the reader to have to pause and read the poem at a certain pace, as well as highlight bizarre dichotomy in certain lines, such as: “Like a plague/of toilet/paper.”
The series of poems: “And One,” “And Two,” etc. give the collection a kind of cohesiveness, weaving a thread throughout connecting sports (basketball) and college.
Martinez grapples with a variety of complex themes throughout the collection such as masculinity, alcoholism, divorce, and the constructed place of “the hood.” His work seems to want to resist binaries and one-dimensional representations of personhood, which I found inspiring. Martinez shows himself to be both a man who has made many mistakes, who grew up within the throes of gang violence and drug trafficking and an intelligent, creative, and multi-faceted person with a poetic inclination.
Some of my favorite poems in his newest book were: “Love Song,” “The/ A Train,” “Us vs. Them,” “After Imagism,” and “Playing Hangman.” Each has distinctive and poignant imagery, which tends to be the thing I am drawn to most in poetry, along with pleasing sound quality.
You can order David Tomas Martinez’s books at https://www.amazon.com/David-Tomas-Martinez/e/B00LLMK18W. Read more about him on his website: http://davidtomasmartinez.com.