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UH Moment

UH Moment: Hustle

A poet from the UH Creative Writing Program brings his former gang-banger life to the page.



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As a boy I died
into silent manhood.

I hid the words
teachers helped me find.

People always pine for the ease
of an earlier time, when life

was lunch-boxed with fruit
in the water fountain line,

so much explained during recess time.
I hid the words the teachers helped me find.

             — ‘Calaveras,’ section 8, from Hustle, by David Tomas Martinez

“My name is David Tomas Martinez. I am a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing and poetry.”

For Poet Martinez, author of the collection titled “Hustle,” words and poetry led him to an unlikely place—academia.

David Tomas Martinez

“I walk in the classroom and people say ‘you’re the professor?’  They don’t expect a tall, brown, man—tattooed—to come in and lead the discussion.”

I spoke in the twist
of fingers to gang signs.

In the color of shoe laces
or which way my brim was tilt,

“When I was a teenager, I didn’t think I was going to make it to 25.  When I was in that gangsta lifestyle, I wanted to go to prison,” he said. “I think that’s why (my poetry) resonates with people. It’s accessible that way. It’s just me talking to my reader, saying ‘this is what I’ve been through and it’s kind of jacked up.’”

I hid the words teachers
helped me find.

His collection, “Hustle,” has been well received.  It is success he credits to the UH Creative Writing Program,

Martinez Hustle

“Coming here and being around the faculty, the students, the environment and all the authors who have come through has been really great,” he said. “That’s here, in Houston. It’s amazing.”

Creative Writing is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.

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