We used to have a strict litmus test for poetry at the Ozark Gazette - it had to pass the “That’s pretty cool” test. More often than not, Lisa Martinovic’s poetry passed the test with flying colors. A member of the Ozark Poets and Writers Collective, Martinovic entertained Northwest Arkansas for several years before returning to California. Her poems were always provocative, and often dealt with sexuality and modern society. Many of her poems can still be seen on Fayetteville’s Community Access Television.
Her website is http://www.slaminatrix.com/. It is worth checking her website out, just to see what she is up to these days. In fact, just a Google search will reveal that she is up to all sorts of intriguing things these days. This Q&A was conducted in 1995.
This interview is included in “Ozark Mosaic.”
Lisa Martinovic: Politically Incorrect Fantasy
Ozark Gazette: You are a practitioner of what is called "Street Poetry." What exactly is that? How does it differ from traditional poetry?
Lisa Martinovic: My understanding of street poetry is that it's just whatever comes forth from a particular individual without any particular kind of training. I do not have any kind of traditional poetry training at all, but I imagine that traditional poetry is something that you learn in school.
OG: Is your poetry specifically written to be read aloud? Is this performance art?
Martinovic: I write different kinds of poetry. Some of my poetry is better just read off the page to oneself, but most of it is better read aloud. And for the type of material I do, I like for it to be entertaining, engaging, enlightening, amusing. And I like to get audience response. That's why I do call it performance poetry, and it is an art form. It is a sort of combination of literature, theater, and high camp entertainment. Just good fun stuff.
OG: Did you read much of the traditional college material, Shakespeare or Ezra Pound, for example?
Martinovic: As little as I could get away with. It just didn't interest me. I in fact hated poetry for the first thirty years of my life. Actually, even longer. I've only been writing poetry for the past five years. I had no use for poetry, and it held no interest for me whatsoever. That's because most of the poetry I was exposed to was from the classics. The classics didn't do it for me then, and they don't do it for me now. I like poetry that immediately makes sense to me, what they call accessible. I like to hear accessible poetry and I like to write accessible poetry. The poets that I really like a lot, I don't read. I really like live performance.
OG: How did you begin writing and performing your poetry?
Martinovic: I came to it completely by accident. I was doing a writing practice: uncensored, unedited writing, twenty minutes a day, and it just bored me, so I did a little adaptation. I noticed that if I took a break, a line would come to me, just a line. At first I tried to ignore them, but then I'd go back to the desk and write that one line, and then another line would come to me. The first time I did this, I wrote a whole page of fragments. That was actually the beginning. I brought them to a friend of mine who wrote poetry, who said, "these look like poems to me." That was actually the beginning.
In San Francisco, there is a very thriving open-mike scene. I went to one place, and it was a dingy place, with people just reading aloud, and I sat in the cramped little bleachers that they had, and I sat there for three hours, just listening to the poetry, and I was riveted. I walked out into the street and asked myself, "Why would anyone go to a movie, if they could come see live poetry?" It was that exciting. I worked on my own stuff until I had enough courage to do it myself, and that was the beginning.
OG: What do you read for enjoyment?
Martinovic: I read self-help books (laughs). I rarely read novels. I enjoy them very much, but I have a strange wiring system in my brain that tells me that if I'm going to spend time reading, then it had better be something that's going to help cure me, or get further along the path of spiritual
enlightenment. I view fiction as fluff even though I enjoy it very much, and I do read it from time to time. Mostly I read current events, news, or politics, which I want to stay on top of, and a lot of books on meditation, spiritual evolution, what have you.
OG: Some of your poems seem to indicate an anger towards men. Is there some social or sexual commentary here?
Martinovic: Am I angry at men? I don't feel particularly angry. Sometimes I just feel frustrated and disappointed.
I love men, I love women, I love people. I think people are wonderful, and people, myself included, can be very disappointing. There are plenty of men who are loving, and wonderful, and don't simply refer to women as body parts. What I endeavor to do in my life is to have compassion. Because God knows, I am far from perfect. I tend to think of people who do things or behave in ways that I find reprehensible. I see them as ignorant and/or fearful. That's ignorant versus stupid. I believe that things that people do that are really foul and violent are done out of fear.
OG: How did you come to arrive in Fayetteville?
Martinovic: I'm a native San Franciscan. I've lived there just about all my life. A little over two years ago, life really stank out loud.
I really didn't have a place to live, I was working temp jobs, and I wasn't in any wonderful relationship. I came into a chunk of change, and decided, "Well, I'll take a road trip. I'll just pack everything up and see the South." I thought I would be gone for a month to three months, maybe. I hadan experience I like to call a Vision Quest that turned into a spiritual crisis. That sort of reached an apex here in Fayetteville. I had no intention of coming to Arkansas, but I was in Oklahoma and a friend of mine told me that Fayetteville would be a nice place to go. I came to Fayetteville, and was immediately enveloped by the warmth of the people.
People just took me in. I stuck around and promptly fell in love with a hillbilly in Hogeye, and being a writer, this was just absolutely too compelling for words. In term of "My God, the material," the material I could get out of this relationship, besides being in love with this man.
I had never associated with, much less lived with, people at the complete opposite end of the socio-political cultural spectrum that I've lived in all my life. I come from a liberal, upper middle-class, intellectual, big city background, and here I was living with this tough, hillbilly, macho-man. Plus, I love living in the country. It has been wonderful. So, one day at a time I have been sticking around.
OG: How has the reaction been in Fayetteville to what you have been doing?
Martinovic: Largely very positive. I do my performance poetry at various venues. I do it at Jackson's on the last Wednesday of every month, at Arsaga's when they have their monthly full-moon reading, and at Java Strait for their Thursday open mikes. People respond very well to my poetry, and seem to like it quite a bit. I've done benefits for the AIDS Resource Center, the free clinic and the Fayetteville Free Weekly. So the response has been really quite good.
I had some concern, because so much of my material uses language that some people would call profane. Others would call it merely vulgar. Certainly, the seven dirty words are used in abundance in much of my poetry, and I was concerned about that in terms of knowing that Arkansas is part of the Bible Belt, but I guess that the circles that I travel in, for the most part, everybody else uses that language, too. I mean, this is not the kind of poetry that comes out of the University, or not that I've heard, anyway. But so far I personally have not been pelted with tomatoes as a result of my language.
OG: What is the self-publishing route like?
Martinovic: I have self-published three books of poetry and art, and I do that at home on my Macintosh, using PageMaker, and I thoroughly enjoy it. It is a wonderful opportunity for those of us who are poets and who are not yet published by mainstream publishers to at least get stuff out there.
Ozark Gazette, October 2, 1995