HERMANA RESIST: Genius Single Mami Noemi Martinez has a New Book & Press

When I talk about South Texas I usually mean San Antonio and below. And specifically the experience of being of Texas, South Texas, of being Latina and being of a place, loving a place that kills so many that look like me–that is the experience. Saying this is home but this is also the place that kills us. And wants to erase us.

–Noemi Martinez

HERMANA RESIST: Genius Single Mami Noemi Martinez has a New Book & Press

By China Martens

IMAG3316Shit. I started to cry-laugh when I read South Texas Experience: Love Letters by Noemi Martinez. This is good. This is the real thing.

Forty two pages of poems and images in this beautiful self-published body. It gave me chills to read.

How does Noemi implement things like this so quickly, like lightning–how does she, a genius single mami writer in the trenches produce great works, seemingly overnight at times, through days and years of struggle? Noemi has been writing a long time. She put out her first zine, Making of a Chicana, in 2000 and Hermana, Resist in 2001 and has been part of larger collaborative networks to distribute and encourage independent media and activism. She has taught many workshops and organized many art shows.

And this book. Pure relentless unwavering poet. Total control. Never too much or too little.

In poetry there is truth. In poetry there is education. In poetry there is heart/god/liberation. In poetry there is freedom. Noemi writes in memoriam for those whose names have been taken. She writes as a historian during a time history is outlawed. She writes of skulls “wedged between coffins” and “white yucca in blossom/the burning grass” as well as family, known and unknown.

Especially poignant is that many of the photos in the book are taken by her teenage son, the photographer Jonathan River Hernandez-Martinez.

Her spacing of words and line breaks echo the forms of nature–water and soil–a contrast of dry and wet, plants living in a dry climate, and bodies of water. A beautiful sky, the big picture, a hard love, where we find ourselves and what it all means on the border of Texas and Mexico, in horrific repetitions “many/as many/ as many” of mass graves and gorgeous sensualities like “you-magic valley, made me a witch,/a llorona, a bruja”

A full page of notes at the end of the book–references and footnotes–speaks to the depth as each beautiful word goes much deeper, below the soil, into an ecosystem of history and oppression, unburied and searched for.

Poetry is a feeling. When it feels right. Like baking a cake or making love. Or a song. This collection weaves all the right notes together.

This is why I wanted to be a writer. Why I write. Why I read. I immediately want to send this book to ten loved ones for the new years. I want to wish a hundred blessings for us in the new year. For a world where the survival of poetry and people matter. To fund the survival of the planet by supporting a new press of promise by a radical single mother of color at the center of a world of necessary transformation.  And the evolution of the zinester, the single mami media maker into having a new press and new forms, experiments in sustainability.

Deep. Nature + Poem. Images. Noemi is a masterful creatrix. She writes poems as truths, wake up calls for us all. Words are beautiful. Language, like ripples, so perfect.

bookcoversteORDER THE BOOK HERE: http://www.hermanaresistpress.com/product/stletters

Order it now. It’s full of mysteries–yet just enough. It left me wanting more, so I asked Noemi if I could interview her.



Interview with Noemi Martinez by China Martens


China: Noemi, this book. I seemed to recall you said it was an experiment for your press. Is this true? Are you gearing up for Hermana Resist Press? It’s beautiful by the way!

Noemi: Yes it was a test to see how to manage everything, the layout, ordering, how many times I’d have to get a “pre-print” and edit that plus the cover. Then cost, shipping, preparation. Iron out the “how-to,” basically.

China: Do you have more projects lined up? What are your goals with Hermana Resist Press in 2016?        

Yes this is a start/test for Hermana Resist Press where I want to publish other people of color and will probably launch a Kickstarter in the next year for that.

I want to publish a local research-based history collection on riots that happened in the ’70s here–when schools were segregated and Chicanos marched to police stations, riot occurred and some Chicanos were killed. Plus hopefully a collection of poetry/writing by another WOC (don’t have the person or anything in mind) and maybe an anthology.

I have a writer in mind for the local history on the riots– a local writer Eduardo Martinez (no relation, ha), who is called a barrio historian. Eduardo is a local organizer, cultural worker and does a lot of unpaid labor in terms of community organizing.

For the other stuff, no writer in mind. Maybe I’ll do a contest with a small entry fee to help raise funds.

Another thing in the works is a collection of writing by our zine friend Mateo Parra that I’m talking to Courtney Barbour about–it’s a slow painful process but that is def. something I want to do. Mateo was a queer trans Latino who wrote the zines Casa de los TrucosDoing Maria, and Chicken Soup for the Transsexual Soul. He wrote on friendship, abuse, the south, doing sex work, and queer punk/zine community.

I’m branching out this way because even though I love zines, books have longevity and because in the publishing world work by radical women/men of color is overlooked–especially experimental writing or writing from folks who don’t have an “in” for example, an MFA or connections.

There’s a lot of history surrounding the borderlands area that is written/collected by white people or just not written about. And I love history and it’s important to remember and document these things.

China: Where can we all stay up to date?

Noemi: Go to the website, http://www.hermanaresist.com/hr-press, and stay tuned for a Kickstarter.

I also have a Patreon for my own work. https://www.patreon.com/hermanaresist?ty=h – it has stuff that I haven’t told you about that I’m working on.

China: On your Patreon page–where people can be patrons of the art and fund all these projects you are working on, it says “Noemi Martinez is creating: mixed media, zines, books, essays & poems: primary source in the making.” What’s a primary source?

A primary source is a term used for original evidence, documents or recordings of information. In history, primary sources have usually been research written by white folks on people of color.

Primary sources are created by the witnesses and recorders of whatever event or condition is being documented. So for example, the missing women who are not talked about say, in 1800s South Texas publishing is telling because the sources are there but the researchers chose not to include them. I’m saying, I’m documenting us/you have to take note.

Every answer you give leads me to more questions. Like–so who are the missing women in 1800s South Texas publishing? Are there names you want to shout out?

Ha, yes, for example, the father of one woman who got credited for starting a small press that did newspapers but thru research we can see it was the daughter in charge.

Her name was Sara Estela Ramirez, she wrote for her father’s newspaper but also published her own newspaper and a literary mag. no known copies of the newspaper she published exist. She died before continuing her work, young at the age of 29 in 1910.

She was born in Mexico and by the time she died it was considered Texas—Laredo, Texas.

Or we can tell that for example, women were self-publishing poetry chapbooks because a lot of men from that time were writing articles on how women shouldn’t be involved in the press and they should be home, etc., so they alluded to the work. Also we can tell because copies of letters that we have preserved written by men talk about the work that women did.

Can you explain, geographically, what you are talking about when you talk about the Southern Texas experience–your experience in the collection? I want to pin point these poems and essays and photos. How big an area they are in.

When I talk about South Texas I usually mean San Antonio and below. And specifically the experience of being of Texas, South Texas, of being Latina and being of a place, loving a place that kills so many that look like me–that is the experience. Saying this is home but this is also the place that kills us. And wants to erase us.

So the stars–the dedication of the book reads: “for the stars walking under our sky”–is the people we hear about and those we don’t. Immigrant/refugee bodies/ black women who are killed while driving/ teen Mexican boys shot on the border by border patrol. Those are the stars.

How far do you live from the border?

Twenty minutes. I live on the very tip of Texas. I am about an hour away from Port Isabel, the port that leads to the ocean. Basically folks look at a map and say, Oh, you are practically in Mexico. The water in the photos in the book are resacas, dry riverbeds of the Rio Grande, sparse water now that the river has been stopped/used for water/ irrigation, etc so now bits and pieces are left dry.

China: I got to stop asking questions. YOU ARE FASCINATING! thank you so much for your time.




s.t.experience2China Martens co-edited Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Frontlines due out in February, 2016 from PM Press.

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