INTERVIEW | Brad Zellar

Writing about loneliness and isolation, in House of Coates, author Brad Zellar makes intriguing and vital observations on types of character traits that defy cultural assumptions and stereotypes of masculinity. Combining vivid writing with photographs by Alec Soth, the novel becomes an enlivened testament to our complicated associations and relationships with the world and each other. Here, Zellar speaks more to these themes, as well as discusses different innovative writing craft techniques.


Chelsey Clammer: There is the stereotype in American society that men must be tough, ruthless, unconquerable, even. House of Coates, in a way, looks at what happens when these expectations are challenged and broken. I’m curious about how you think loneliness and the sense of being broken impact the social constructions of masculine gender roles. What do you think are some of the consequences of these gender stereotypes when they are instilled, but also subverted?

Brad Zellar: I wonder a lot about gender and coping strategies for things like loneliness and disappointment. It seems to me that most of the women I know handle isolation in a more constructive way, but I could be wrong about that. I do know, though, that there’s this ingrained thing with a lot of guys where they feel the need to run and hide, and to try to reinvent themselves as self-sufficient. It’s the action-male instinct, I think, the thing that drives survivalists and all sorts of men who maybe watched too many westerns or ingested a bit too much Thoreau or Kerouac when they were younger. Active isolation. Be a moving target, even if no one’s really gunning for you.

There’s no question that the masculine stereotype of the stoic—the cowboy, the mountain man, etc.—exacerbates loneliness, depression, economic struggles, and all manner of other hardships. And I don’t think American society and culture does a very good job anymore of preparing anyone for those stereotypical masculine roles (probably to its credit) and the result is that a lot of these lonely drifters are just soft, bad actors who don’t have a clue or an audience. Lester B. Morrison is a guy who is crippled by a very common strain of romantic and toxic mythology.


CC: The beginning of the book weaves setting and character together—the two bounce off of one another, then slowly merge and form a very stark and vulnerable story about Lester B. Morrison. What role do you see setting/place having in this story? Other than location, what purpose do you think it serves?

BDZ quote 1BZ: The setting was a very deliberate choice. And it’s a real place, more or less. I’ve always been attracted to John Ruskin’s idea of the pathetic fallacy, and if misery truly loves company than I think it stands to reason that somebody who feels desolate and fouled will seek out a landscape or an environment that mirrors what they’re feeling. It’s obviously not healthy, but I can attest from personal experience that it happens. The area around that refinery south of the Twin Cities—particularly in the dead of winter—is about as inhospitable a place as you can imagine. I’d spent a good deal of time poking around there, and when I was writing House of Coates it just seemed like the natural place to do it. I had no plans initially to set the story there; I was just looking for a suitable spot to hole up and work without distraction. But once I was hunkered down in a little strip motel up the highway from the refinery—and this was in the middle of a particularly dreadful Minnesota winter—the environment became a major distraction and a central part of the experience, and I started seeing Lesters everywhere.


CC: While the writing and content create that beautifully stark tone I spoke of earlier, I feel like the photographs are not just a part of the narrative, but a part of the actual writing of House of Coates, as well. How do you see the photographs interacting with the text? What parts, themes, and/or topics do you think come alive because of the mixed media?

BZ: The original drafts of the book were much, much longer, and there was much more in the way of description. The beauty of working with photographs—and Alec Soth (who took the pictures with a disposable camera) and I have worked together on a number of projects—is that you always know you have a lot of freedom to pare things way down. The pictures carry so much of the weight, and let you off the hook in terms of having to unpack everything. In this instance, they could not only show the place, but also reflect Lester’s point of view. And not only what he was seeing but how he was seeing it and how it was affecting him. So much of the book’s mood and atmosphere are established by those woozy, off-focus photos. When I’m working with photos my models are always the picture books that I read as a child; the great ones are such models of economy and collaboration, and I find that when I remember them I’m no longer sure which parts of my memories are related specifically to the words, and which to the pictures. You’re always shooting for that sort of a marriage.


CC: In Adrienne Rich’s poem “Song,” she writes:

You want to ask, am I lonely?

Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in.

Do you think there is any sense of freedom that can be found within loneliness? Or is it a trap from which we can never fully escape? And finally, as spirituality becomes a theme later on in the novel, how do you think spirituality fits in with this?

BZ: This is where it’s easy to get hung up. I think so many of the more romantic notions of “freedom” are fraught with loneliness once you actually try to make your break. The whole question is also, of course, much more complicated at a time when there are so many ersatz virtual communities in cyberspace. The bottom line is that I believe that most people, no matter how introverted or solitary, really crave some sort of connection and some sort of engagement. Real world connection and engagement. And a lot of that requires an assertiveness that many lonely people don’t have. Spirituality—or an even more old-fashioned term, faith—is a form of connection that can either lead people back into the world, or even farther away from it, and I’m not trying to disparage it by saying that it often worms its way into people’s lives when they’re most vulnerable or in need. Of something. Some sense that they’re not invisible and that their do have meaning or purpose. I’m all for it if it fills the hole, just as long as people don’t use it as a hammer or a wedge. 


BDZ quote 1CC: I want to provide some examples of how the language, pace and structure of each sentence in the novel is, well, astounding.

“Have you ever had the feeling that there wasn’t a soul left on the planet that remembered your name or face or the sound of your laugh? That was a Lester question, and his answer was yes.”

“The poisons were making their way through two or three feet of snow and creating swirling scarves of steam in the freezing air.”

“It’s not about light. It’s about finding a way to live in the darkness.”

There isn’t a question here—I just wanted to point out the lyricism and power of the actual writing in House of Coates, and also to thank you for bringing such beautiful sentences into the world.


CC: What are you working on?

BZ: I’m always writing fiction, but I do it mainly because it’s what I enjoy, and I have never really done anything with it, or at least not for more than 20 years. For the last several years Alec and I have been traveling all over the country and working on a project called The LBM Dispatch. It’s a shifty—and sort of shape-shifting—combination of documentary work, travelogue, and basic storytelling using words and pictures. We’ve pretty much wrapped up our travels (and have published seven newspaper installments of the work) and are in the process of putting together a book about the experience. I’m also finally trying to pull together some of my fiction to toss out into the world. It’s a giant archaeological project. 


CC: Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

BZ: Try to be nice to each other. There are a lot of people out there who feel insignificant and invisible. It doesn’t take much to make a small difference in their lives.


Brad Zellar has written and published fiction, and worked as a writer and editor for daily and weekly newspapers, as well as for both regional and national magazines. A former senior editor at City Pages, The Rake, and Utne Reader, Zellar is also the author of Suburban World: The Norling Photos, Conductors of the Moving World, and House of Coates. For the last three years he has been collaborating with the photographer Alec Soth on “The LBM Dispatch,” an irregularly published newspaper that chronicles American community life in the 21st century. Soth and Zellar are presently at work on a book documenting the experience.

Chelsey Clammer has been published in The Rumpus, Essay Daily, and The Nervous Breakdown among many others. She is the Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as a columnist and workshop instructor for the journal. Clammer is also the Nonfiction Editor for Pithead Chapel and Associate Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown. She has two essay collections forthcoming in Spring 2015.


INTERVIEW | Christi Furnas

christi284Working with a community organization in Minneapolis, artist Christi Furnas not only helps other artists with mental illnesses to improve their art-making skills, but does so in a safe space that is free of stigma. As someone who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, Furnas uses her history of mental illness in order to inform how to help others who are going through similar experiences. Here, Furnas discusses the intersection of the role art and the creation of beauty play towards a deeper level of communication.


Chelsey Clammer: You have been a member of The Spectrum ArtWorks program for about a decade. What does the program do and how did you become involved in it?

Christi Furnas: Spectrum ArtWorks is an art program located in Minneapolis, MN that supports adult artists living with a severe and persistent mental illness. We are part of a Community Support Program called the Lighthouse which is a drop-in center for adults with a mental illness. People hang out and have a safe space; a place without violence, disrespect or stigma. The CSP also provides services such as housing assistance, health and wellness groups and a lot of fun activities.

I got involved with Spectrum ArtWorks when it was in the beginning stages. A friend told me about an art group for people with mental illness. My response was basically to roll my eyes and say no thank you. Then he mentioned free art supplies. So I checked it out. What I found was lasting friendships and an addition to my support network. I’ve been introduced to people and artwork that I would’ve never have known about.


CC: What is your role in the program as a Peer Support Specialist?

CF: In March 2011, I was hired on as staff. I support 12 people who are working to survive as professional artists. I help them apply for shows, and keep up portfolios along with other things. There is great talent in the group and I have learned a lot. Another aspect of my job is to help facilitate open studio time. This is when any member of the Lighthouse can utilize the studio and art supplies. This is not art therapy although it is an excellent time for people to be creative in a comfortable setting.

christi1I have a unique roll because I get to support peeps as an equal. I don’t see it happen where I work, but in a great number of situations people with mental illness are patronized or not listened to. It’s difficult to value yourself when no one else seems to value who you are or what you say. I have the opportunity through art making to connect with people. It is important to hear stories from people and be able to share experiences. The other day I compared auditory hallucination stories with an artist in the program. Then I discussed which colors to use in their painting. I feel extremely fortunate to work in the arts at a place I can be open about my illness.


CC: In the past twenty years (if not longer), there has been much discussion about mental illness fueling creativity. I’m thinking here about the release of Kay Redfield Jamison’s book Touched with Fire and the emergence of activist/support groups such as The Icarus Project. What is your perspective about the relationship between mental illness and creativity?

CF: I have identified as an artist since I was a child. It was with me before and throughout my illness. Art is a form of communication and a universal language. I found that at times, one of the ways to get my thoughts out was to draw. These drawings were early in my diagnosis and may be interesting to some, but I have moved beyond that point in my life. Having gone through many doctors, therapists, and medications, I now have control of my thoughts without a constant fear of suicide. The word recovery is used for where I am in my life today. That is not the same as a cure. My episodes are shorter and easier to control, but when I experience symptoms I literally hide and am barely able to speak. It is uncomfortable physically and mentally. The different forms of pain are from schizophrenia and not from stigma. I am paranoid and hear things that are terrifying. I feel things crawling on my skin. I am not thinking about my next creative project.

At the beginning of my diagnosis, I drew like I didn’t care if I lived or died. Now I paint like every day is precious. I have a commitment to each painting; I rework and revise. If someone were to say that my art has suffered due to my recovery, I would disagree. I look at some of my old stuff and cringe. I’ve been through many medication switches. I kept sketch books from different times and I can tell by looking at my drawings which meds didn’t work. The medications that I am on now help keep me alive and comfortable. I would never trade that to go back. In fact, one of the methods I used to keep myself alive was to tell myself that the next drawing/painting would be better so I couldn’t kill myself “yet.” My paintings are better. So, I was right!

My illness is part of who I am, and I put everything I have into my artwork. So it would be hard to separate the “crazy” me with the “artist” me. But as for psychosis fueling creativity, I would say that it may make for some interesting stories that I would never want to relive. But, there is so much to take from life, so many different observations and experiences, I don’t think unneeded suffering is a necessary component of creativity.


CC: Have you seen any shifts in regards to the permutations or amount of stigmatization of mental illness in our society?

christi2CF: Stigma is everywhere. I believe it is starting to get better slowly. On the one hand, we have bad movies and endless news reports blaming violence on the mentally ill. On the other hand, there are organizations like The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and countless people working to advocate for us. More people seem to be speaking out about their own experiences.

What I find is that people are afraid of the unknown. It seems completely logical to me that anyone would be scared if you don’t know anyone that has told you about their mental illness. I’ve seen the statistic that one in four people will experience some kind of mental illness in their lifetime. If that is true, then we all know someone that is suffering.

I have been “out” to my friends and family as having schizophrenia before I went public with it. There are a couple of reasons. First, my family is awesome and has always been supportive and loving. And second, I wanted people to know, so if I went out of my mind around them, they would have some reference and therefore be able to react in a less frightened manner.

When someone asks what I do for work, I tell them that I work in an art department in a drop-in center for adults with mental illness. The reaction I get is something to the effect of, “Wow, good for you. It takes the right kind of person,” or “Hats off to you. That must be really difficult to work with those people.” This reaction always takes me off guard and I lose the opportunity to school the person. My answer seems to be, “It’s actually a lot of fun.” So when people are even being kind, there is a lack of awareness. But on a personal level, I’ve at least seen more kindness over the last number of years.


End of the Day600
Christi Furnas, “At the End of the Day” Oil on canvas. 36″ x 48″


CC: As a community organizer through the arts, what are some of the challenges you have seen organizations such as Spectrum ArtWorks face, and what actions have helped to address/challenge/eradicate them?

CF: It is a challenge for anyone to live as a professional artist. The population of people I work with can have issues with poverty, housing, chemical dependency. Some folks have had a run in with the law. When you are always in crisis, it’s hard to focus on your career. The members of Spectrum ArtWorks are dedicated but have a lot going on. Our organization tries to take a holistic approach. We support each person, the best we can, with their goals.

Another huge challenge is access to the arts. Minneapolis has an amazing arts community. I know that there are more opportunities here than in many areas. I try to tell the people that I work with that art is not a competitive sport, but we are going after the same grants, applying for the same shows, trying for the same sales with other artists and organizations. Many of the juried shows, the judges look at an artist’s education. Few of our artists have an MFA. A lot of times that means you are not even considered. It can seem like running on a wheel. Rejection is a regular occurrence for an artist. This is especially difficult for people who constantly face discrimination. Mental illness is often a judgment against a person’s character. So receiving a rejection letter is devastating. Many members would not put themselves out there if they didn’t have the support that we give. I try to keep my eye out and my ear to the ground, try to keep the challenges coming. I have occasionally taken a Wonder Woman stance and announced “Challenge!” When folks get down, I just remind them that it’s just about making art. Your job is art. Art is fun. Just have fun. If you enjoy what you do, your work will show it, and more people will eventually buy it. Then I smile.


CC: What are some changes you hope to see in regards to stigmatization of mental illness, and how do you think the arts can help to make those changes?

CF: The worst stigma I have experienced has been my own. When I was diagnosed, I didn’t know what schizophrenia was. I had to research it on dial up. That was frustrating. And terrifying. You can imagine what happened to my self-image. When you are given a life sentence with the possibility of death, it hits hard. My symptoms got worse with the news. The naming of what was going on made the illness even more life threatening. It’s like being diagnosed with cancer and given your chemo to take home, which makes you sick. Then they tell you to call if you feel like you are close to death so they can lock you up and give you more chemo.

Mental illness is an illness. It took a while for me to comprehend that. And when I did, I noticed other people in the world didn’t realize it either.

christi3At the place I am now, I do not deny my illness, but I do not identify myself by it either. My identity is complex and simple and nonexistent at the same time. Other Buddhists might understand what I’m trying to say. I’m not going to get into an existential conversation right now. What I am going to say is that I try to present the person that I aspire to be to people while trying to be honest about who I am to myself. At times, these two things merge. That is beauty. People recognize beauty, and it’s hard to hate and fear beauty.

Like I said before, art is a form of communication. It connects our thoughts and emotions with others. We see parts of ourselves in other people’s work. The beauty that is conveyed on a canvas can move through the viewer’s eyes to their soul. It has that potential. Or maybe through a good song. Or a play. Or a good book. Something connects that is beyond a casual conversation. When I connect with someone through art, they see that we are the same in some way. When people see that we are all the same in some way, that breaks down stigma.


CC: Tell me about your own artwork. With what medium do you engage and how do you approach your artistic work?

CF: I enjoy working with oil paint. The subject is usually figurative, with exaggerated lines and color, and distorted proportions and perspective. I have fun while I lay the brushstrokes on thicker and brighten everything up. Contrast comes from a mixture of pigments, as I rarely use black on my canvas.

I always seem to go back to my line drawings, as well. I work small, mostly on 5”x7” paper. I haven’t used color in a while with my sketches. I play with implied lines. I want the viewer to fill in the blanks and imagine their own palette. Usually there is a comedic aspect to my doodles.


CC: What are you working on now, both as an artist and a community organizer?

CF: We are putting together an open studio for the peeps, as well as a first addition of a magazine for art and writings. These are still in the planning phases. We are looking at places to have a group show for the artists. We try to have a show dedicated to breaking down stigma once a year.

The latest project I am working on is a series of portraits of my wife, Ruth. I have a solo exhibit scheduled this spring at the Fox Egg gallery in Minneapolis called Close to You, Intimate Portraits of My Wife. I received a generous grant from VSA Minnesota through the Jerome Foundation to create these paintings, so I was able to work larger. I am really enjoying working on this project. Close to You is the name of the Carpenters song that played for the first dance at our wedding reception. All the paintings are from photographs since we’ve been married. There is a lot of love in that paint.




Christi Furnas is a Minneapolis based artist living with schizophrenia. Her love for her wife, friends, family, cats and art gets her out of bed every morning. Her artwork has been shown in galleries and alternative spaces throughout Minnesota for more than 20 years. She enjoys a tasty meal and good conversation. Currently, Christi works at the Lighthouse, a drop-in center for adults with mental illness, as the ArtWorks Peer Support Specialist.

Chelsey Clammer has been published in The Rumpus, Essay Daily, and The Nervous Breakdown among many others. She is the Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as a columnist and workshop instructor for the journal. Clammer is also the Nonfiction Editor for Pithead Chapel and Associate Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown. She has two essay collections forthcoming in Spring 2015.

INTERVIEW | David Tomas Martinez

Released this past May by Sarabande Books is Hustle, a debut collection of poetry by David Tomas Martinez. Hustle, spotlights the intersection of race and masculinity. Partially about growing up in an urban environment, his poetry reaches beyond describing life’s difficulties and poetically grapples with structures of power and marginalization. Through his writing, Martinez conveys the fluidity and plurality of identity. But even more so, he gives a poetic voice to experiences that society tends to stereotype, ignore, or completely silence. 

Chelsey Clammer: What are the main themes Hustle explores?

David Tomas Martinez: Among the themes Hustle investigates, some are gender, power, race, social class, sexuality; most of the large social structures we navigate on a daily basis. You know, pretty much that thing we call life. That being said, I wasn’t trying to write a book of overtly political poetry because I think it is problematic to begin a poem with a desired intention, particularly a political one. Seriously, a poet beginning a reading with “I have a long sequence of political poetry” makes we want to break out the flamethrower, for multiple reasons. However, I am a person in this world, aware of various pressures social structures exert on my life, so it only natural that my book will have some implied political beliefs. But to combat the calcifying effect of the overly politicized poem, I address the personal, entering adulthood amongst the difficulties in an urban environment, for instance. Honestly though, none of these are really satisfactory. It irks me when I hear others describe my book as “written about gangs, stealing cars, and shooting people.” If Hustle is no more than a voyeuristic jaunt through the ‘hood, then I have done a disservice to the reader and myself by having less than nuanced speakers. I have been pretty fortunate, though, that many people have been very generous with their praise of Hustle.

CC: How do you feel poetry was the best way for you to write about these themes? What about poetry do you feel gave you a better avenue to look at violence and masculinity in a way other genres might not have?

DTM: I don’t believe I was built to only write poetry, so my answer may suggest ambivalence towards poetry. Don’t believe it.

The best poems think us through them, and that is a wonderful moment when you can connect with someone through their words.

But my relationship with poetry is problematic. Firstly, I refuse to view my life through the prism of poet, as if all things happening are experiences for my poems. I am cautious of this crystallization of experience because most of my life has been spent not writing poems, granted, much of my time spent not writing poetry was unhappy, but I would have found something to release the stress and pressure of everyday life, some sort of outlet. Used to be basketball, now its poetry that makes life tolerable. But mostly I don’t view my life as a poem I haven’t written because I believe it’s a horrible way to live, and I refuse to live as a puppet to my poetry. Also, poetry is my job, and that can cause serious problems with a writer’s work. When it is your job, then your livelihood depends on writing good poems, or your happiness depends on writing good poems, which can do some loopy things to a poet’s head. I try and pretend poetry and I are just friends with benefits and not married, though we are. I do this so I can gain some distance from any goals when I write. I guess that’s akin to roleplaying. So far that mindset has worked. However, I really do love poetry, and I am completely encamped in the writing of it. For me, a poem is a finite moment in time, exhibiting some resolution of a problem. The best poems think us through them, and that is a wonderful moment when you can connect with someone through their words. And only poetry does it, usually, quickly. In fits and spurts. In a way that I have often heard called shamanic, magics dance to the chant of a human voice. No other genre of writing captures this phenomenon as well as poetry.

CC: Thinking about masculinity, race and violence, how do you feel your work reveals as well as complicates the intersections of these aspects in our society?

DTM: I’m half Mexican, half white, and I grew up in a predominately black (it was called Lil Afrika) neighborhood, so I never feel fully entrenched in one sort of identity. And though I identify as Chican@ and am interested in the political issues for Latin@s, I like to think I can move with fluidity in many different environments. I am friends with professors and pimps, which can be exhibited in my writing by changes in registers of language, code switching, and vastly ranging allusions; images. Most of the “gang” events I talk about in Hustle are over 20 years old, since those events took place the cross pollination among cultures has increased, in my opinion, which may speak to the plurality some readers identify in the poems. I think Hustle challenges our current interpretation of masculinity by placing the speakers of my poems in difficult situations, where they struggle with the necessity to be strong because of environment or societal and community expectations. By that I mean, I feel that current ideas of gender roles are anachronistic, placing pressure on the men in our society to live up to a standard that may, or may not, reflect their own desires and dreams. Masculinity is strange in that it is completely enveloping of my life, yet there is little conversation about its effects on the life of men, and how this affects the way men treat women in this society. I don’t see many constructive talks, at least. Essentially, because gender roles are unwritten rules, men model their ideas of masculinity by community shaming and adulation, by the men we know, by the image we consume. That can be a very difficult learning curve, and what becomes a byproduct of this process is prejudice based on stereotypes. In Hustle I was trying to give a voice to the young urban minority male because often it is silenced before it has a chance to sound off.

Magics dance to the chant of a human voice. No other genre of writing captures this phenomenon as well as poetry.

CC: What sort of distance did you need from the situations discussed in the poems in order to be able to write about them?

DTM: Distance is very important for my writing process. Distance allows for uncomfortable situations or scenarios in my life to not be subscribed overly sentimental slants of perspective for the speakers of the poems. But there still has to be some emotional resonances, some joint that hurt when it rains for the poems to resonate with the reader, obviously. For instance, in “Forgetting Willie James Jones” I was working through resentment over the shooting of my friend Maurice. At the time, almost twenty years after the fact, I was still angry that Maurice had been completely ignored by the San Diego news media, and that Willie was being memorialized, having streets named after him, and basically sainted. For me the lack attention to the death of Maurice spoke to the muzzling of my community by forces outside of my community. At 17, I didn’t posses the language to understand that my resentment was not with Willie but the lack of empathy for my friend. I also couldn’t process that Willie was valedictorian, wrestled, and had a full ride to Brown, while Maurice was a gang member killed in a gang killing, that’s a gang of gang related issues. I knew that my resentment was wrong, so I set out to write a poem about this time to resolve these issues. Without some sort of distance it would have been impossible.

CC: What was your process for writing these poems? For how long did you work on this collection?

DTM: I seem to be answering these questions, partly at least, a question ahead. I’m starting to really question if I’m not a mutant or something. Professor Mex, if you will.  In my process, each poem has a problem and resolution. Now I use this as a very rough analogy, there need not be a fixing of some problem, and the problem can be undeclared, but as reader I better go some damn where. Often I will have some event, or feeling, or catalyst “inspiring” the poem, basically a story I want to tell the reader. Much of Hustle was written in this manner, as I described for “FWJJ.” I also like to read critical and theoretical work that always draws ideas out of me. I do plenty of late night reading of this kind of work. It took about 5 years to write Hustle but my process has sped up exponentially. Most of the time needed was time to emotionally process. My process for new poems takes much less time. Knock on wood.

CC: Are there other poets you turned to in order to see how masculinity was reckoned with in poetry?

DTM: Not really. Tony Hoagland has been a big influence on me as a writer, homeboy, and teacher.

I was trying to give a voice to the young urban minority male because often it is silenced before it has a chance to sound off.

The wrestling to define masculinity in Tony’s writing was such a huge influence on me that I tried to take a slightly different approach. I was not going to be eaten by that cucuy. To be honest, theoretical work was really a much larger influence on me than any one writer, and thinkers, such as bell hooks, greatly influenced how I think about masculinity and race. I really am a big fan of her. Though now that I think about it, Campbell McGrath influenced me with his use of form and the way he talks about man shit. So did Hoagland and McGrath. Tupac, too. Well I guess I lied because I start with none influenced my thoughts on masculinity then name four. Well you know what they say, “there are two rules for success: 1) Never reveal everything you know.

CC: Your publisher, Sarabande, provides a reader’s guide for your book. How do you see your collection being used in an educational setting?

DTM: Students have responded very positively to Hustle. Plenty of high school and college students have told me they don’t like poetry but they liked my book. I don’t really know how to take that. Optimistic dtm thinks, *damn I must have wrote the book of my generation. I knew I was getting canonized.* But pessimistic dtm thinks, *you just wrote a book that people who don’t like poetry like. You are Billy Collins. Your career is over.* Did I just use the third person? Yes dtm did. Anyways, there are also practical reasons for writing a teaching guide, sales. I try to be practical about these things and grind to help out Sarabande because they have been really great to me. I did tattoo the logo on my wrist.

CC: What are you working on now?

DTM: I’m thirteen pages into a new manuscript. The new poems have personal elements and stories but the associative nature make them less dependent on one defined setting. Highly associative leaps are in Hustle, but the new manuscripts pushed jump further in their associations. Poems from this manuscript have been published in Poetry and Oxford American, so I feel like I am off to a very strong start. I edit Gulf Coast’s Reviews and Interviews section, so I am working on a round table consisting of myself, Roger Reeves, Natalie Diaz, Jamaal May, Tarfia Faizullah, and moderated by Alan Shapiro. We were all fellows at Breadloaf this summer, and we are all people of color, so we will discuss the shifting center of attention in American Poetry. I’m finishing my PhD at Houston. I am also writing a memoir about masculinity and fatherhood. I become a father at 17, so I’m writing about that experience. It is going to be pretty taxing.

I think HUSTLE challenges our current interpretation of masculinity by placing the speakers of my poems in difficult situations, where they struggle with the necessity to be strong because of environment or societal and community expectations.

David Tomas Martinez‘s work has been published or is forth coming in Poetry Magazine, Oxford American, Forklift; Ohio, Poetry International, Gulf Coast, Drunken Boat, Poetry Daily, Split This Rock, RHINO, Ampersand Review, Caldera Review, Verse Junkies, California Journal of Poetics, Toe Good, and others. DTM has been featured or written about in Poets & Writers, Publishers Weekly, NPR’s All Things Considered, NBC Latino, Buzzfeed, Houstonia Magazine, Houston Art & Culture, Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Bull City Press, and Border Voices. He is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing program, with an emphasis in Poetry. Martinez is also the Reviews and Interviews Editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts, and a Breadloaf and CantoMundo Fellow. His debut collection of poetry, Hustle, was released in 2014 by Sarabande Books, which won honorable mention in the Antonio Cisneros Del Moral prize.

Chelsey Clammer has been published in The Rumpus, Essay Daily, and The Nervous Breakdown among many others. Her essay “A Striking Resemblance” received an Honorary Mention for Water~Stone Review’s 2014 Judith Kitchen Award in Nonfiction. Clammer is the Managing Editor and Nonfiction Editor for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. Her first collection of essays, There Is Nothing Else to See Here, is forthcoming from The Lit Pub in 2015.  Her second collection, BodyHome, will be published in Spring 2015 by Hopewell Publications. You can read more of her writing at: