Interviewing Spoken Word Poet Christopher Martinez

Christopher Martinez
Christopher Martinez (also known as Rooster) is a San Antonio based spoken word poet whose most recent video, “An Untitled Brown Poem” resonated with our staff members. Christopher’s poem is powerful and insightful. He shares his perspective on what it means to be Latino in this country.

 This week the team had the pleasure of interviewing Christopher Martinez. Enjoy.
Kevin Steil: Where does the name ¨Rooster¨ originate from?
Christopher Matinez: Rooster is a longstanding nickname I had with my family and friends. It originated as a nickname I gave to my grandfather–a very hard working, up before the sun, Mexicano, who I admired deeply growing up.  When he passed away, the name kind of landed on me and stayed with me all these years later. When I began performing poetry at PuroSlam, six years ago, I figured I’d sign up with my nickname. Now, people view it almost like a nom de plum, I just roll with it.
Rosa Polio: What sparked your interest in writing poetry?
Christopher: I’m a creative; I always had a compulsion towards creating art. In middle school, we studied poetry more in depth, and I really gravitated towards it. Later in life, when I learned about contemporary, spoken word poets like Saul Williams, Shihan Van Clief, Andrea Gibson, and Patricia Smith, I saw there were less limitations to the art, and that realization heightened my enthusiasms to write and share. Poetry felt like a way to document very nuanced instances in my life, and I really appreciate that.

Laura Quinton: Do you think it’s important for Millennials to have a voice within the literary world

Christopher: I think it’s crucial that Millennials interject their voice in the literary world. Sometimes, poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction are a digestible way older individuals can be introduced to and better understand the struggles faced by younger individuals–socially, politically, etc. Too often, I believe the perspectives and concerns of Millennials are overlooked or viewed as naive and insignificant. However, young people need to carve space for their grievances and experiences, and older individuals need to encourage that as much as possible.

Derrick Marrow: Is there a method to the mechanics/process on how you write?

Christopher: Write as much as possible until you don’t suck (or suck less). Get to know other writers’ work intimately. Recognize that waiting to be inspired is a bad idea, and writer’s block is a myth. Make writing habitual. I try to write everyday.

Alyssa Vega: What was the best and worst part of the publishing process, and what advice would you give someone who is beginning their journey with their first book?

Christopher: *Laughs out loud* That’s a big question. I don’t know what the best and worst parts of the process are because I’m still very much on the journey. I love the journey–the work I’ve created and destroyed, friendships I’ve made and lost, and any peace I found with myself. My advice would be find people you trust to look at your work and give harsh criticism to push you to be the best writer you can be. When you get to the point of shopping your book around, trust good criticism, and love the process.

Jasmin Ramos: In “An untitled brown poem” you touch on some of the challenges of being Mexican American. Personally, I also feel like there is an expectation from both cultures that we have to assimilate in order to be accepted. That’s a lot of pressure. How do you go about confronting these challenges and how would you advise other Hispanic Americans to deal with this?

Christopher: I think as a people we have to confront a huge amount of our own internalized problems both individually and socially. First and foremost, young Latinos have to study their family, their people’s history, and the history of America, then decide where they fit and how they self-identify. If you self-identify as Latino, Latinx, Chicano, Hispanic, Latin@, indigenous, Xicano/a, or however, that’s important; but it’s crucial that you can define why that definition matters to you, to yourself.My whole life I have had other people projecting an identity on me and telling me who I am. I even see a lot of young Latinx activists doing that to other young Latinx people now, but that’s still a colonization tactic. Me, I continually re-read and re-examine the text, history, culture of my family and mi gente. I’m currently reading the book, Latino/a Thought: Culture, Politics, and Society, by Francisco H. Vasquez and Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation by John Phillip Santos. I read other Chicano author’s experiences and take mental notes.

I also empathize with the fact that we are people colonized, exploited, and taught to think less of who we are, historically and to this very minute, multiple times by multiple nations. From that perspective, I navigate accordingly and with confidence.

Matthew Arrant: How did you feel writing and performing “An Untitled Brown Poem”

Christopher: It felt great. Originally, I started writing it because I had a line in my head, “I’ve often been taught by a white God that I’m ugly.” I have a lot of issues about how problematic organized religion can be (and with most groups with great a sense of self-righteous indignation for that matter), so the poem sort of worked outward from that. I love the music of Selena; I grew up on it. Her life and her biopic is an incredibly rich source of pride for a lot Latinos. Therefore, referencing the film also references the duality of who she was as a Mexican American, as a successful Latina mujere in both business and music, artist/person, etc was important.

The first time I performed the poem, I read it at Austin Poetry Slam–one of the best places for poetry in the country (shout out to APS family), and the crowd of 120-150 people went nuts. I really didn’t know how people would respond to the piece because I feel a) it’s a poem that’s particular to the Latin American experience, b) I’m challenging a lot of our own internalized issues, and c) I’m calling out America during the rise of Trumpism. Nonetheless, the response has been great. I’m very thankful that many Latinos appreciated it and have told me that it spoke to things they had similarly gone through.

Isaac Prado: In your Southern Fried poem, you described your tongue as “sacrificed to many Gods”, and this perspective can piss of Mexicanos. This goes against the grain, as I understand the meaning behind it. Do you believe that we all have God given talents? If so, how would you encourage others to understand this and encourage them to find it?”

Christopher: I don’t believe in God given talents or natural born talents. I believe we have natural inclinations towards things, but the onus is on us to cultivate, sacrifice, and grind to develop talents for those things to flourish. I feel like just because your good at something doesn’t mean you were born to do it. I’ve seen a lot of talented, new writers enter the slam community because they love it, stay for three months, then abruptly exit because of life or because the applause isn’t worth the work. I love the game of basketball, and I tend to view most things through the lens of the game and its history. Larry Bird once said,

“Even when I lost, I learned what my weaknesses were, and I went out the next day to turn those weaknesses into strengths.”
To me, in that quote, is the secret. Can you do something you say you love and admit that you have weaknesses and shortcomings? Then can you wake up the next day, with that knowledge, and say, “I’m going to be better than I was yesterday”?
Daniel Quintanilla: What is your overall goal that you want to achieve, not only as a poet, but as an artist?
Christopher: I want to be on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine–that’s my big ego wish. Personally, I get the most enjoyment in making South Texas proud. When I got my poem in the Huffington Post, to see kids I work with at Lanier HS, coached with Fresh Ink Youth Slam, adults, artists, and my homies see it and they feel good that someone they knew was on it, even for just a day, that means a lot to me. As an artist from South Texas, from San Antonio, I feel like we have a rich literary history that is often overlooked, for whatever reason. I think it takes a lot to survive as a creative in South Texas, let alone find success.
Be sure to follow Rooster on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as he continues to spread his message! You can also find his most recent book on Amazon

About Daniel Q 69 Articles
Just a kid trying to change the world one person at a time through writing, while spreading love and positivity every step of the way.

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