By Lisa Martinovic

Brenda Moossy and Lisa Martinovic (right) back in the day
Brenda Moossy and Lisa Martinovic (right) back in the day

Less than a year after I arrived in Arkansas, in 1993, the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective started shaking things up in Fayetteville. Through those early readings at the D-Lux, I found the tribe I never had in San Francisco, and the woman who would become my best friend and my sister in poetry. I’d never heard anyone like Brenda Moossy before, and I haven’t since.

Brenda harvested her strange and fertile East Texas roots to create poetry of stunning power and originality: she was a conjure woman of her own making.

And that voice! A throaty drawl, slow and murky as the Sabine River that haunted her childhood, by turns mournful, seductive, menacing, ecstatic.

People of little imagination often underestimated her at first glance. She didn’t look or act the part of the rock star slammer. But when she stepped onto the stage and took command, there was no one in the room more powerful than Brenda Moossy.

We had grand adventures on our many poetry tours — from the juicy, late-night madness of the Nuyorican, to LA gigs in air perfumed with dreams of stardom. On road-trips that seemed to never end, hallucinating with fatigue at truck stop diners on the interstate, we’d laugh and dish and deconstruct vast swaths of the universe. She always drove while I navigated, read aloud, fed her my homemade baked tofu. We never tired of each other, and I promise you there are few joys as great as road-tripping with Brenda Moossy.

* * *

I was driving home on Brenda’s birthday, a few years ago. Sheryl Crow’s All I Want to Do is Have Some Fun came on and I was instantly transported back to our first West Coast tour in ’96. We’d started out with a bunch of gigs in LA. New York poetry impresario Bob Holman showed us the town, and we were closing out the night after cozying up at legendary hotspots Formosa and Viper. 

It was somewhere between very late and very early, Brenda at the wheel, when that Sheryl Crow tune began playing just as we ourselves were driving with the sun coming up over on Santa Monica Boulevard. She reached over and squeezed my hand and everything came together in a warm rush of myth-poetic communion: our friendship, the whole world of slam poetry, being on tour, and the frisson that comes with proximity to fame. 

Brenda and I were not physically demonstrative with each other, so I will always treasure that one moment when we held each other’s hands and everything was possible.

Whether you knew Brenda or you didn’t, either way, I’m sorry for your loss. Our loss. Brenda was never big on promoting her work. She left no website. So after her death I put up some of her poems — written, audio, and video versions — on my site in hopes that her work will be remembered and shared. I invite you to discover—or rediscover — the poetry of Brenda Moossy.

Read by Lisa Martinovic at the OPWC 25th Anniversary Extravaganza Oct. 11, 2019