Brandi Nicole Martins's 'piercingly honest' poetry wins runner-up for Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize

By Amelia Shoriak

English doctoral candidate Brandi Nicole Martin uses her writing to destigmatize mental illness, and the creative process for her is often therapeutic and a form of recovery. Through her powerful voice, readers learn the causes of trauma and mental illness and its oftentimes direct link to genetics.

Martin’s inspired ability to break down barriers within generational trauma recently won her the runner-up award for the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize sponsored by The Missouri Review. In order to win the prize, participants submitted entries for one of three genres: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Martin’s entry in the poetry category was titled “No Market for Unfixable Suffering,” and she included other poems.

“It’s really exciting and I am honored that I was selected alongside the other authors chosen,” she says.

A Florida native, Martin attended FSU for her bachelor’s degree and earned her Master of Fine Arts in poetry at FSU. In 2016, she won the Emerging Writer’s Spotlight Award, selected by D.A. Powell.

Martin started writing and enjoying poetry when she took a poetry class during her time as an undergraduate. In addition to her responsibilities as a teaching assistant, Martin says her daily routine typically consists of reading and writing. She bases her poetry on her personal life experiences and trauma.

“If you’re able to transcribe it exactly as it happens, people see worth in it. It is very special,” she says. “Writing is crafted and different, but for me it is an incredibly personal endeavor as well. It is just really exciting because it is very validating.”

Martin recently completed her preliminary exams and is currently working on her dissertation. English Professor Diane Roberts is on Martin’s dissertation committee, and she refers to Martin as “that rare bird, a major talent in both poetry and prose.”

“Her poetry is piercingly honest, deceptively direct, and exhilarating,” Roberts adds. “Her nonfiction is beautifully crafted--as a poet, she knows how to distill language down to its essence--but emotionally ferocious. She is one of the most fascinating and compelling students I've ever had the pleasure to work with.”

Her poetry is piercingly honest, deceptively direct, and exhilarating. She is one of the most fascinating and compelling students I've ever had the pleasure to work with.

— Professor Diane Roberts

Martin's writing process is rigorous.

“It’s a lot of reading constantly, work, reading things that are the same as the things you like to write, but also reading things that challenge you in different sort of ways, and being open to being challenged,” Martin says.

The advice she gives to the undergraduates in her classes or any writer who wants to become better starts with a direct reminder: “Believe in yourself.”

“It can be extremely validating and incredibly personal to practice the craft of writing,” Martin says. “Shoot for the impossible things and challenge yourself. Voicing your life through writing can be super validating and exciting.”

Martin’s poetry will be featured in an upcoming issue of the Missouri Review.

Amelia Shoriak is an English major on the editing, writing, and media track with a minor in general business.

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