Tribute to Brenda Moossy

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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. http://slaminatrix.com/category/09-brendamoossy

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


Four Poems

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By Wendy Taylor Carlisle

Advice: an Arkansas Sonnet

By a lake shaped like a cartoon parrot, 
we practiced the simple art.
You were seventeen and I was nineteen —
two years between us — 
and then I was twenty. 
This was the first math. 
It was Arkansas in the Seventies 
and your aunt said, 
don’t grin honey, 
you don’t want to work your skin like that. 
She told me, 
one day you’ll be dead,
but until then put on some lipstick,
wear you a cute skirt.


What in the name of Sophia’s golden boy on a dolphin was I thinking the evening we opened each other up, easy as a fork in a brick of tinned fish, easy as picking out the dainty bones from salmon the meat pink as Phaedra’s lips, as the inside of your cheek, where a stranger’s tongue goes when he lays you down on the dock a hundred yards from the party or on the carpet in a small room up your parents’ hall, a man in a hurry who opens his arms with a flourish and meets your mouth which is dry as day-old sockeye and kisses you rosy, kisses you pliant as a Coho filet?

And was I thinking that the day after, driving home through a hangover fog the color of a tinplated can, my heart black as a dorsal fin, the smell of bait on my thigh?

My Husband and I Talk Travel

— the blasted evenings of Tierra del Fuego, 
the syrup of Malta on the back of the tongue. 
After any plane trip, the pain will be another wall 
to push our bodies through. We plan how to live in it.
When we drive, goodwill leaks out of the silent car 
leaves a crimson stain on the afternoon.

I Do What I Do

I am a heart in a prison of bone.
I am a needle and a ladle.
I take my white horse, her hooves 
assessing each syllable of air.
I take my little can of adventure
and lift my head up from the wheel of crazy 
and not enough safety, 
and making the paycheck 
and stretching the paycheck 
and hoping to live long enough 
for the government cheese.
I do what I do, don’t you?
Whatever the dark
and the kudzu don’t take 
I claim.

Excerpted from The Mercy of Traffic, Unlikely Books, 2019

Read by Wendy Taylor Carlisle at the OPWC 25th Anniversary Extravaganza Oct. 11, 2019

Cento for My Father

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By Geoffrey Brock

in memory of Van K. Brock (1932–2017)

I learned to translate
                     where snowmen tame wild country.
They’ll stand all night in snow.
                      I heard them singing—
I try to think of you and think of these—
singing “Our Father,” voices older than speech,
whispering our gospels and histories,
translating us again into transparent tongues.

I can teach you how to translate: begin
bearing your son in your arms, our sons to us,
our congealed bodies waiting
                      without a tongue.
You, who leave us tongueless, with one eye,
I try to think of you and think of these.

Without a tongue,
                     I had no way to translate— 
none of us had fathers who knew that trick.
  I listen, my whole body a tongue.
As I learn infinitives, idioms, the grammar,
I mold desire into sentences, like maned sheaves,
to show us what your words had always meant.
I try to think of you and think of these.

I tried to say, “The horror is all yours,”
in its language of pure opacity
                      (pait     paitpait),
like your tongue, breathing as quickly as you breathe.
But I cannot clearly remember you.
I listen for a dissonant singer in old oaks.
From a ravenous cavity, the voices of rasping tongues:
“Branches increase the acorn.” I’ll try to translate
the country of my origin
                     to our sons.

There are things I fear. Translation, for example.
Evidence, lost tongues,
                     the disease of birth.
I try to think of you and think of these.
The terror is the getting lost in earth—
your son still trembles from your trembling.
The new snow on the ground is very pure,
translating us again into transparent tongues.

Now what you don’t say I must say for you.

Originally appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Winter 2019

Read by Geoff Brock at the OPWC 25th Anniversary Extravaganza Oct. 11, 2019

Schedule of Program


Group photo at OPWC's 25th Anniversary Extraganza
Group photo at OPWC’s 25th Anniversary Extraganza

25th Anniversary Extravaganza

Ozark Poets and Writers Collective

With the Open Mouth Reading Series

7-11 p.m. Friday 11 October 2019

OPWC oval logo widget

Note: This has been updated after the show.

Welcome to the Party! Tonight’s emcees

  • Moshe Newmark
  • Sloan Davis

Timekeeper: Betsy Killibrew

Remembering the Birth of OPWC 

Deborah Robinson

Tribute to OPWC co-founder Brenda Moossy, 1949-2009

Featured Poet Lisa Martinovic of San Francisco* (bio below)

Intermission I

Jonathan Stalling
Jonathan Stalling

Prominent Poets of China — A short program of the U.S.-China Poetry Dialogue of the University of Oklahoma and Beijing University and its founding director, Jonathan Stalling, who says, “U.S.-China relations cannot be built upon business and policy transactions alone. Rather, we must draw on our shared experiences of what matters most to us, and be cognizant of what could be lost. Literature, especially poetry, can give us insight into the future of our relationship, one that flickers into view in the partial light of our hopes and fears.

Intermission II

4-minute readings

  1. Geoff Oelsner
  2. Dave Malm*
  3. Gerry Sloan*
  4. Dwain Cromwell
  5. Moshe Newmark
  6. Wendy Taylor Carlisle* read Four Poems
  7. Canceled: Michael Heffernan
  8. Doug Shields
  9. Mohja Kahf*
  10. Harry McDermott
  11. Ginny Masullo
  12. Clayton Scott
  13. Molly Bess Rector
  14. Steve Holst
  15. Deborah Robinson
  16. Geoff Brock read “Cento for My Father
  17. Sloan Davis
  18. Lisa Bostic
  19. Noelia Cerna
  20. Kody Ford*
  21. Guy Choate
  22. Banah Ghadbian
  23. Canceled: Nicholas Francis Claro

Fellow Scribes, We Can Keep Going!

Our event room closes at 11 but the hotel welcomes us to move the party — we’ll announce more from the stage!

Special Thanks

To Kody Ford, Burnetta Hinterthuer, Steve Holst, Barbara Jaquish, Ginny Masullo, Harry McDermott, Moshe Newmark, Ben Pollock, Molly Bess Rector, Deborah Robinson and Amy Wilson.

Some Biographical Notes — All readers were asked to submit brief bios and photos if they wished

Lisa Martinovic
Lisa Martinovic

Lisa Martinovic: Though a native of San Francisco, she didn’t come into her own as a writer and performer until she landed, quite by chance, in the Ozarks. Nurtured by love from the community and inspired by the many brilliant local writers, Lisa flourished. From 1994 to ’99 she teamed up with Brenda Moossy to co-chair the OPWC and develop the slam poetry scene. Lisa went on to compete at five National Poetry Slams on Team Ozarks.
Since her return to California, Lisa has focused on writing essays that explore the intersection of neuroplasticity and addiction. Her work appears in publications as diverse as the San Francisco Chronicle, The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, Tikkun, CounterPunch and CommonDreams.  She has featured everywhere from City Lights to the Nuyorican, LitQuake to Lollapalooza.  You can find more of Lisa’s work at Slaminatrix.com. http://slaminatrix.com 

Wendy Taylor Carlisle: She lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. Wendy is the author of four books, Reading Berryman to the Dog, Discount Fireworks, The Mercy of Traffic and On the Way to the Promised Land Zoo, and five chapbooks, most recently “They Went Down to the Beach to Play.” See her work on line and in print from pacificREVIEW, Blue Lake Review, 2RiverView, Artemis, barzakh, Cider Press Review and others and in recent anthologies, In Plein Air, Untold Arkansas, 50/50 and *82 Pocket Poems. For more information, check her website at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com.

Kody Ford
Kody Ford

Kody Ford: He is editor at large of The Idle Class magazine. Kody’s short stories have appeared in several journals. Facebook page.

Banah Ghadbian

Banah Ghadbian: She is a Syrian woman poet, jewelry maker, activist, and mermaid on land. Banah has a B.A. in Comparative Women’s Studies and Sociology from Spelman College and a master’s from University California, San Diego, where she is a Ph.D. student in Ethnic Studies. Her research focuses on how Syrian women use creative resistance including poetry and theatre to survive multiple layers of violence. Her work is published in The Feminist Wire and was as a finalist in their 2015 poetry competition, As/Us: a journal for queer women in the world, the print anthology Passage & Place, Aunt Chloe: A Journal of Artful Candor, Sukoon: an Arab-themed literary magazine, and the Journal of Middle Eastern Women’s Studies

Mohja Kahf

Mohja Kahf: She has been a professor of comparative literature and Middle East studies at the University of Arkansas since 1995, which is also when she started attending OPWC open mics. In 1999 Mohja went to Slam Nationals with Lisa Martinovic, Brenda Moossy and Pat Jackson. She has published two poetry books and a novel.

Dave Malm
Dave Malm

Dave Malm: He was born and raised in the Chicago area, moving to Newton County, Arkansas, in 1977. He has degrees in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Champaign and agriculture from the University of Arkansas. Dave has twice been an OPWC featured reader and has participated in nearly every monthly OPWC program’s open mic with original poems throughout its 25 years. He is known for timely limericks as well as sonnets, lyrics and haiku. His day job has been as an organic market gardener. “One more thing perhaps worthy of mention: the OPWC party on Oct. 11th concides with the 39th anniversary of my marriage to my wonderful wife Ellen Corley. “

Gerry Sloan
Gerry Sloan

Gerry Sloan: He is a retired music professor who lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Gerry has published three poetry collections: Friday Poems (2019), Paper Lanterns (2011) and Crossings: A Memoir in Verse (2017), as well as three chapbooks. Recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Elder Mountain, Cave Region Review, The Idle Class, and Poetry Construction No. 22 (in Mandarin). Other interests include movies, jazz and Japanese pottery.

Brenda Moossy
Brenda Moossy

Brenda Moossy: “‘God, It Was Great.’ — Brenda Moossy – The Last Interview,” by Richard Drake, Arkansas Times, 2011

We Celebrate 25 Years with Extravaganza Oct. 11

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A poster for OPWC anniversary extravaganza

The Ozark Poets and Writers Collective will mark its silver anniversary with an all-star spoken-word celebration Oct. 11 at downtown Fayetteville’s Graduate Hotel.

For the last 25 years, the OPWC has held a monthly public event where it features a prominent or upcoming local or regional writer with “open-mic” opportunities before and after. The intent is to encourage writing and gentle feedback even if it’s just a bit of applause. The readings generally have been poetry but fiction, creative non-fiction and musicians have been welcome.

The program, starting at 7 p.m. at the Graduate Hotel (formerly the Chancellor) will feature an early member, Lisa Martinovic of San Francisco. Other readers will include Geoffrey Brock, Noelia Cerna, Guy Choate, Nicholas John Francis Claro, Sloan Davis, Kody Ford, Banah Ghadbian, Michael Heffernan, Steve Holst, Mohja Kahf, Dave Malm, Harry McDermott, Geoff Oelsner, Molly Bess Rector, founding member Deborah Robinson, Clayton Scott, Doug Shields and Gerry Sloan.

Multimedia artist Lisa Martinovic specializes in spoken-word performances.
Multimedia artist Lisa Martinovic specializes in spoken-word performances.

The Friday night program is free with general admission seating. A cash bar with snacks will be available.

Martinovic is a native of San Francisco who spent the 1990s in Northwest Arkansas. The multimedia artist has toured for years as a performance writer, using in her sets poetry, satire and stand-up comedy.

OWPC began loosely in the early ’90s when a group of poets decided to share their love of the written word, according OPWC board member Burnetta Hinterthuer. In the same period several of the “collectivists” formed the Ozark Poetry Slam, coordinated by the late Brenda Moossy. OPS went to the National  Poetry Slam competition several times in its heyday.

The anniversary celebration will feature a tribute to Moossy, who died in January 2009, with readings of several of her sly, deep poems. Moossy will be honored by Ginny Masullo and Moshe Newmark.

The evening will also include a reading by two of China’s most prominent poets, brought by University of Oklahoma English professor Jonathan Stalling, of the US-China Dialogue Institute. The segment is coordinated in collaboration with the local Open Mouth Reading Series, which will host several readings the next day. 

Since 1994, the collective’s monthly programs have featured among many others Arkansas Poet Laureate Jo McDougall, Naomi Shihab Nye, Geoffrey Brock, Michael Heffernan, Davis McCombs, Clayton Scott, Padma Viswanathan and the late Miller Williams.

As OPWC marks its silver anniversary, Masullo, a board member, cites one of the group’s major accomplishments as “keeping an uncensored open mic going for over 25 years [and] sticking to our goal of featuring local, regional and national poets.”

A year ago, OPWC won a Black Apple Award, from Idle Class Magazine, for Best Reading Series.

The monthly series has been a great place for beginning writers to find community and test their mettle. “In this day and age, we often just use digital communication forms, yet it is known that there is a need for personal interaction,” Hinterthuer said. “OPWC is a wonderful place to learn to read for an audience (as we are very forgiving), find advice and encouragement.”