I want to say it was 2010 the first time I experienced Olivia Gatwood. In 2010 I was 39 and I think she was still in high school or newly graduated. I only mention that because ageism is real and make perceptions and expectations skewed. I believe in the ageless nature of art, but life experience does affect what one writes/speaks.
But, on with my story.
I was in Albuquerque because at the time I was doing feature performances regularly. I happened to be in town the weekend of the ABQ Grand Slam to decide which poets would represent the enchanting city at the National Poetry Slam that year.
All of the poets brought their A game that night. The stage was filled with prowess and clever wordplay the whole evening.
Then there was this high school girl that touched the mic (as we all seem to do) before cracking the air in the room open like a sudden lightning strike. She spoke with as much authority and conviction and skill as anyone twice her age or more. She had a gift.
It’s been years but I think she won that night. As I was reading this collection of poems from a woman seven years away from the incredible force of nature that I met briefly in 2010, I couldn’t help but think of back then and how much she deserves every bit of success and accolades she has gotten since then.
She has a natural level of skill that her academic experience has only made even more apparent. She is truly one of the masters of the prose poem in the way she portrays narratives in what I am guessing are autobiographical vignettes.
Reading the series of stories her poems portray (autobiographical or not) took me to the other side of the world to places I have not seen nor experienced. I was intertwined into some of her portrayals of girlhood and connected by similarity and relatability to the themes and descriptions.
BOTTOM LINE… This book is well worth the read. If you like poetry at all, you will love this book. Even if you don’t normally like poetry, I suggest this book because of its predominant narrative quality of so many of the pieces. Seriously, get this book.