In 2018 I was first exposed to Olivia Gatwood. I was sitting in my eighth-period English class, dying for the bell to ring so I could go home. That’s when Mr. Dalerio put on a video to introduce contemporary poetry. He showed us, Olivia, performing Ode to the Women on Long Island; I have been obsessed ever since then.
It was the first time I heard a woman who looked just like me speak in a blunt, powerful way and get celebrated for it. I have always been stubborn and too honest, and as the rest of society would like to put it, talked improperly for a girl my age. I was not afraid to curse, to passionately speak my mind, but most importantly I would do anything to defend myself. The last lines of Ode to the Women on Long Island are “One more thing – when they call you a bitch, say, ‘Thank you, thank you very much.” I showed everyone I knew that video, I wanted everyone to know how much those last lines resonated with me. It represented the start of my love affair with Olivia Gatwood, spoken word poet, writer, and educator.
Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Olivia grew up with a unique childhood. She temporarily lived in Port of Spain Trinidad, due to her mother’s work as a sex educator and HIV epidemiologist. Olivia continues her mother’s work as a Title IX educator in sexual assault and recovery. All of this influences Olivia’s poetry very heavily.
Olivia Gatwood has written and published two poetry collections, New American Best Friend, and Life of the Party. I own both of these. New American Best Friend I received as a Christmas present after I bombarded my mother with anything and everything Olivia Gatwood that year. It is a short collection with very impactful poems. I highly recommend both of these books, but for someone just starting to dip their toe in contemporary poetry, New American Best Friend is the book for you. I then preordered Life of the Party which Olivia announced she was releasing in August 2019 on Instagram. Life of the Party is a bit denser than her first collection centered on the romanticization of violence against women, referencing a lot of true crime. I have read both of these collections numerous times, but I am anxiously awaiting her debut novel Whoever you are, honey which will be released in 2023.
She has worked on numerous other projects as well. Olivia has contributed to Woke a Young Girl’s Call to Justice and has been published in numerous literary magazines. She goes on tours to perform her poetry, most recently Life of the Party US Tour. Olivia works with Melissa Lozada-Oliva another poet to create a podcast called SAY MORE. They work together as internationally renowned writers to answer questions they have about everything and anything. I listen to this podcast where they bring on guest speakers, which has led me to other great artists’ work. Sometimes I like to keep on SAY MORE whether I am driving to class or cleaning my room. It helps me relax throughout my day as any good podcast should.
Olivia has also written for many different films. Most recently she wrote the music video for Adele’s new song I drink wine, even making a cameo. Olivia is assisting in writing the upcoming film The Governesses starring Lily-Rose Depp. Her work is widespread, and some of you may have already experienced it and not even know it.
She has turned her poem Backpedal into a short film, winning Flickerfest 2019. Backpedal is one of my favorite poems due to the visual she created for it. Alongside Backpedal, and Ode to the Women on Long Island, I am constantly thinking about The First Shave, Aileen Wuornos Takes a Lover Home, and Ode to the Wedding Dress in Goodwill. Gatwood’s poems leave a lasting impact in my mind.