INTERVIEW: Lee Martens shares the Secrets of a Broken Heart

Lee Martens is the newest addition to the Secret Midnight Press family of Authors with her upcoming book "Secrets of a Broken Heart"


What is your name, where are you from, and what is your favorite word in English and why? favorite word in Dutch and why?

My full name is Lieke Marthe Ruesink and I'm from the Netherlands. But I write under the name Lee Martens. This is mostly because my real name is impossible to pronounce for English speakers, and even Dutch speakers often get my last name wrong. Lee is pretty much how you pronounce the first half of my name, Lie-ke. Martens is an English version of my middle name Marthe. I was named after my grandma, after being born on her 70th birthday! My favourite word in English is significant, because the way significant is said implies it has significance, with the strong intonation at the second syllable. My favourite word in Dutch is sterrenhemel. It means starry sky, but the second half, hemel, also means heaven. I love words that you can interpret and translate in different ways.


You're checking out at the store. You get into a bit of small talk with the cashier and mention that you've just published a book. The cashier is almost done ringing you out, but asks you what your book is about. You've got ten seconds to explain your book while they bag your last few items - go!

My book is a collection of poems from my late teens, early twenties. It's called Secrets of a Broken Heart and the biggest secret in it is that I've mostly just broken my own heart. (just a side note, it is very unlikely I'd ever get into this situation, as I avoid small talk at all costs.)


When did you go from someone who 'writes for fun' to calling yourself a writer?

I don't know if there ever was such a transition. Right now, I'd call myself a writer who writes for fun. Although I have a degree in scriptwriting and write quite regularly, I still see it as something I do for fun, rather than something I do for a living. Which is good in a way because it takes a lot of the pressure off. 


Which poem from your book is your personal favorite and why?

My favourite is called 'Silly dreamer'. It's a small poem, just four lines, but it's so me that I really like it. It describes the struggle between being really grounded and realistic on one hand, and being a big dreamer on the other. I feel like the Dutch culture is very down to earth, with its motto: 'act normal, that's already crazy enough'. This way of thinking, of being straightforward, realistic and practical is a big part of me. But I've also always been full of hopes and dreams and some of them are ridiculously big. So it's about finding the balance between the two. 


What role does poetry play in your day to day life?

It changes. Sometimes it plays a big role, sometimes it doesn't. But it's something I can always come back to. Poetry is a way to express myself and to make things make sense. A way to have a little control over things that usually feel out of my control. So in a way it is therapeutic, but moreover it is fun!


What excites you the most about joining the family of Secret Midnight Press authors?

The best way to describe Secret Midnight Press is as a community. Its poetry has brought a lot of people together and created a safe space for everyone to share. I count myself lucky to be part of it.


You're a doctor who prescribes poems to patients. You've just diagnosed someone with heartbreak. What poem (from your book) do you prescribe to them?

I'd prescribe them a poem called 'Flowers'. It's about learning to be okay with not being okay. That every now and then, it's okay to feel down. Moreover, it's about not telling someone 'it's going to get better', as that is usually not what you want to hear in a moment that you don't feel well. Of course it's going to get better, but just let things be for a moment. My favourite line from that poem goes 'know that it is okay to have the rain grow flowers on your cheeks'. It's about allowing the pain, about giving it a place, and then slowly moving on from it. 


Your next patient has been diagnosed with love. What poem (from your book) do you prescribe them?

This is a difficult one, because there are so many different stages of love. But I think I'd prescribe them 'Miss you', which is a poem about missing someone (obviously). It's about how when the right person says them, small words can be of big significance. A shared secret between two people, a language of their own.


What writer has inspired you the most in your life?

Lang Leav. Her poetry collection 'Love and Misadventure' was the first book of poetry I ever owned and I fell in love right away. Before her, poetry to me was a complicated system of rules I had attempted to learn about during literature classes at high school, not something I'd write myself. I did write poetry from a young age, I just didn't classify it as poetry yet. Leav's writing is to the point, it's relatable, and it sticks with you, almost like some pop songs you hear on the radio do. Her poems are catchy, they echo. I remember the moment I bought her second collection, 'Lullabies'. It had just come out and I was surprised to find it in my favourite bookstore, the American Book Center in Amsterdam, just around the corner from the University of Amsterdam where I was studying at the time. I had just finished an exam and wanted to buy a book to celebrate. I read it in the tram and bus going home and remember thinking 'wow, people that notice I'm reading poetry must think I'm so cool and clever for I'm a young person reading poetry'. I can laugh at that thought now, but it was a very serious matter back then. I'm happy it has become more common for young people to read and write poetry, with the uprise of an entire community of 'Instagram poets'. 


What do you romanticize most frequently in your life? 

Other people's lives. It's so easy to imagine what someone is thinking that it's almost become the default thing to do. Before speaking, to think about how a conversation could unfold. The issue with being an intuitive person, with trusting your intuition blindly, is that sometimes you're wrong about what people are thinking.


What do you want people to take away from your book?

That it is okay to feel things and to talk about those things. It is scary to put out this book for me, because it contains a lot of things I never talk about, not even to those closest to me. Feelings, even when they're positive ones, are hard for me to share. For example, as a teenage, when getting birthday presents from friends, I'd never be able to properly show my excitement. Or when I was angry at my siblings, I'd just laugh. So this is a step, and it's a terrifying one, but I hope it opens up a conversation. And I hope it shows people reading that they're not alone and that they have a voice too.

Lee's book will be available this Fall on Secret Midnight Press!
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Jesse BurkettComment