Martínez is different from those poets who prefer to be left alone — the type who would forgo teaching careers, reading tours, romantic relationships, even their health — if it meant they would be able to spend the bulk of their days thinking about nothing but words. She isn’t satisfied unless she is involved in as many projects as possible.
During her two-year stint as Santa Fe’s poet laureate, Martínez put on 63 public events and worked with 11 local families on the multigenerational Lines and Circles Project. As an associate professor at the College of Santa Fe, she coordinated living-history internships with the Office of the New Mexico State Historian and was responsible for the annual PoemPalooza. She left CSF in 2009; she now teaches a class at the Institute of American Indian Arts and one in the undergraduate honors college at The University of New Mexico. She also serves as executive director and core artist for Littleglobe, a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that organizes community art projects.
“I make a lot less money than I did at the college, but I’m a lot happier,” she said. “I was already trying to make the transition to part-time work and also work on these creative projects, so now I’ve switched over to where the community work has become the center of my life, and I teach a class here and there so I can still be with students.”
Martínez won the Larry Levis Prize for her first book, Absence, Luminescent, and was a finalist for the Greenrose Prize for her second book, World to World. Growing up in Santa Fe gave her a sense of the presence of the living and the dead. “My first two books tend to take place navigating the visible and invisible worlds,” she said. Though people found her first books challenging, she said that her new book can be read by anyone, as long as they are willing to “let go of linearity and a plot that unfolds easily.”
Martínez pushes stylistic boundaries in Each and Her to penetrate the official silence around the murders of women in Juárez. A recent upsurge in violence against men in the area has overshadowed the nearly 20-year crime wave that has plagued the women who commute to work each day at the border city’s maquiladoras. Fragmented verse, facts and statistics, quotes from other writers, and lists of the dead are layered upon and connected to one another to combat the disconnection from humanity one needs to take a life as well as to make the unsolved murders of so many women so acceptable.
“Sometimes I watch murder shows, detective shows, and the more I watch, I wonder if it helps make it possible to take another life,” she said. “We have to, in some ways, objectify what it means to be a human being in order to kill. We see it all the time on television, on the news, in the movies. The factors that allow this many murders are wide and broad. They’re political, they’re socioeconomic; they’re about this kind of psychological disconnection.”
The book’s aesthetic complexity is necessary to effectively grapple with the subject matter, she said. Each and Her is not a book that is meant to be consumed, not a book to “get” in one reading. The pieces and fragments overlap, as in the sections about the cultivation of roses and the containment of girls and women that also include allusions to Our Lady