Post Traumatic Hood Disorder


  • Martinez follows his acclaimed debut, Hustle, with a series of lyrical riffs on American culture that juxtapose literary erudition and swaggering vernacular. Though his canonical touchstones include Robert Frost and Countee Cullen, the ivory tower Martinez constructs is a playfully phallic one, where “to think in grunts and finger points,/ admittedly, is not beyond me.” Self-implicating and parodic of masculine paradigms, these poems reveal an ear honed on poetic tradition and hip-hop (“About suffering they were never wrong,/ the old rappers”) and explore intersections of identity with strikingly musical results: “in this/ skin i am/ more wit/ than man/ and to/ white/ men i/ am no/ whitman.” Martinez largely avoids sweeping rhetorical generalities in his visions of social change; rather, history is embodied in the immediate and personal, as when he writes, “What’s in the attic/ but a vacuum-packed/ subconscious, a few// moldy berries of memory,/ a few buried Members Only/ jackets.” To his sonic dexterity and associative collage Martinez adds a dash of humor tempered by inventive precision: “The late-afternoon light entered/ the living room through the barred/ windows like a boxer through ropes.” Martinez understands that change is microcosmic—that “when// most folks say they want to change the world/ they mean their own.”
    - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
  • From Montaigne to Auden to Sir Mix-A-Lot, Martinez pulls from a broad swath of influences to tell his story of moving into adulthood and measuring what makes a man. For him, the answer is as varied as his influences, which include poetry, rap, masculinity, divorce, and alcoholism. Martinez’s poetry is thoroughly introspective, with lines like “Not from going without / does healing come / but from going within.” That line employs some of the linguistic machinations that typify the book, as well as its themes; for Martinez, healing doesn’t come from either the outside or from abstinence. The draw here is Martinez’s mode of storytelling. His lines are sharp and musical, deftly split and carefully crafted. Flexible line breaks create layered poems that nod to multiple, simultaneous meanings. His meter owes as much to rapper Scarface as it does to poet Robert Frost. Poems enact a kind of personal reconciliation: between Martinez’s life as an academic and his life as a Latino man, his life as a man twice divorced and as a man in love with his wife. Beyond its autobiographical elements, the collection also challenges American politics and culture. Machismo butts up against tenderness, regret against ambition—always with musicality and attention to what forms on the page. Lines like “I’ll give you something / to cry about became a simple / tourniquet” show a boy who felt silenced into his manhood. Visually, poems might spill down the right margin or stutter across the page in a zigzag motion; each choice leads to a different kind of reader engagement. Martinez’s are poems to be experienced; they engage sight, sound, and meaning all at once. Martinez melds an urban background, a modernist’s attention to precision, and a rapper’s flow to form an irresistible collection of contemporary poetry. CAMILLE-YVETTE WELSCH (March/April 2018)
    - Foreward Reviews
  • "In Hustle (2014), his code-switching debut book of poetry, Martinez let loose with lyrics that brought the poet’s street-smarts and book-smarts cascading together. In his second collection, Martinez’s poetic voice is more assured and no less ambitious. . . A cynicism undercuts the collection’s gravity, and Martinez builds a complex humor throughout, using deadpan wit and wordplay to deliver amusing observations. . . . In perfectly contrasting lyrics, Martinez blends echoes of pop culture with deeply felt evocations of masculinity and history, with nostalgia for Notorious B.I.G. and Nietzsche occupying the same headspace."
    - Booklist
  • In his second collection, Martinez has fun with the high-low mash-up that characterizes so much poetry today — one poem here is called “Footnoting Biggie Lyrics Like ‘Why Christmas Missed Us’” — but he also includes tender love poems and searching personal reminiscences.
    - New York Times New & Noteworthy


Stealing cars and fathering a child before seventeen, David Tomas Martinez documents his youth as a Latino in San Diego as an inferno of El Caminos and Fords, silent sex, and murdered high school valedictorians. Hustle moves from gang activity through his discovery of pornography to a failed suicide attempt on a crooked path toward self-understanding.


  • David Martinez is like an algebra problem invented by America — he's polynomial, and fractioned, full of identity variables and unsolved narrative coefficients. How does it all go together? And what does it add up to? The speaker in Hustle roams the kingdoms of experience, from stealing cars to explaining post-colonialism to his Mexican grandfather, from celebrating sex to wondering about the crippling mixture of strength and weakness in the men around him. Martinez's poetic voice sings story, talks wisdom, and verbally switches between the sophistications of the academy and those of slang. Out of these trespassings and travels, he makes an original, wise, and tender poetry. Hustle is full of dashing nerve, linguistic flair, and unfakeable heart.
    - Tony Hoagland
  • Welcome to the world of David Tomas Martinez, where cars want to be stolen and the faucet is held like a gun, and homemade tattoos thicken with age. He breathes fresh air into American poetry by bringing it to the street—away from the Ivory Tower, away from the self-referential jokes and commentary. Martinez allows us to see Neruda's love songs again, but this time they "whoop / a motherfucker's ass." And he makes up his own vocabulary here, one in which the word "weekend" comes from word "weaken," long estranged from "wedded." Open this book on the poems like "Sabbath Fe Minus" or "California Penal Code 266," or "Coveralls," and you will see right away a tone that is restless, metaphors that thrill you, and music that is so contagious it just won't let you be. That is because David Tomas Martinez is a real poet.
    - Ilya Kaminsky
  • In these intricate, psychologically rich poems, David Tomas Martinez looks back on a harrowing youth in a rough part of town, at one point concluding, "as a boy, I died into silent manhood." Here, the shooting of a school acquaintance becomes an opportunity for a kaleidoscopic investigation of violence, mortality, and doomed youth. Or the ruined landscape of a concrete urban park provokes a meditation on the sadness that smolders just beneath youthful bravado. Elsewhere, the intricacies of family lore mix with the half-understood yearnings of a young man eager to make his name outside of the neighborhood. From maturity, these poems look to the past with resigned brilliance, finding in recollection not just self-knowledge, but a larger truth about the inescapable power of memory and experience to shape us. Hustle is a terrific, electric first book or poems.
    - Kevin Prufer
  • If you saw this man stepping the concrete, tatted—full sleeves—snapping to his own beat, you'd know, this is the one who will write the holy book of the streets. And he has. Welcome please to the spinning wonder of David Tomas Martinez.
    - Sandra Alcosser
  • David Tomas Martinez is a born storyteller with a truly rare lyric gift. In the outstanding collection Hustle, Martinez writes about rappers and fathers and daughters, the perfection of Whitman, and an iron worker named Lucy you won’t forget. Martinez takes the stuff of his experience and makes it pulse, and kick, and sting, makes it memorable, makes it (for lack of a better term) matter. Hustle establishes Martinez as a threat: a practitioner of the Poetry of Now.
    - Dennis Mahagin (author of Grand Ma)
  • In his debut poetry collection, Martinez translates the unique nature of his autobiography with an acute ear for rhythm, transporting readers from barrio alleyways to the shipyards of San Diego to the halls of Houston academia, broaching such topics as young fatherhood, gang life, and stereotypical masculinity with refreshing candor and linguistic savvy. In the same breath, Martinez allows his poetic speakers to address adolescent slap boxing and Mayan athleticism, rare-book collecting and small-time drug dealing. By turns acoustically playful (“the kicking of her feet / makes the splayed sheets shake”) and profoundly honest (“childhood is a form of taxidermy”), Martinez creates a hybrid universe in which T. S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson drink malt liquor. From the tattoos of gangbanging brothers to the spiked fruit of canyon cacti, Martinez revels in the extraordinary contradictions that arise when poetry arrives stomping, chanting, and slinging urban grit against the polished facade of the ivory tower. A necessary addition to Chicano, Latino, and American poetry alongside writers Rodney Gomez, Laurie Ann Guerrero, and Rosebud Ben-Oni.
    - Diego Báez