On Thursday, April 12, slam poet, author and Title IX educator Olivia Gatwood performed several of her original works at 7:30 p.m. in Sykes Student Union at West Chester University. Prior to her performance, Gatwood held an hour-long workshop covering the topics of gender equality and sexual consent, as she has done at approximately 70 colleges and 30 high schools nationwide. Gatwood remained afterwards to take pictures with attendees, sign autographs and sell her merchandise including t-shirts and her latest publication of poems, “New American Best Friend.”
Originally from New Mexico, 26-year-old Gatwood says she has always loved writing poetry, but she started performing her poems at 16 years old, with some of those performances now available to view on YouTube. While reflecting on the impact of her popular videos, Gatwood commented, “Obviously, my identity is more complex than what you see on YouTube, so I really like when people come to shows in person.” However, she added that she appreciates her fans who have connected with her internet-famous poems such as “Ode to the Women on Long Island,” “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” and “When I Say That We Are All Teenage Girls.” She performed all three of the poems over the course of the night’s festivities.
When The Quad Features Editor Max James asked what a writer should do when searching for inspiration, Gatwood recommended reading other artists’ works. In her words, “Read more than you write and listen more than you speak,” emphasizing the fact that art is hard work and requires intensive study. When reflecting on her own growth as an artist, Gatwood said, “When I started reading poetry … my writing drastically changed, in a better way, because I was studying it.”
In addition to loving the written word, Gatwood mentioned that she scours for words that feel good when she verbalizes them. When James asked her how she finds the perfect words for a poem in progress, Gatwood said, “The thesaurus is my friend.” She also added that she hunts for words “that are [not] related to the theme.” Gatwood continued to say, “It’s a matter of saying things out loud. I talk to myself a lot,” mentioning how musical elements, such as rhythm, play an important part in her creative process. She said the creation of her poems is “almost like scatting, like jazz singers do, and then filling in the blanks with words.”
Gatwood recommended that writers and poets who wish to become published should submit their works to poetry contests, such as Submittable. Submittable is a website where different deadlines for various poetry and prose contests are advertised on the homepage with rolling deadlines. If no luck is had with that, Gatwood affirmed that self-publication is always an option. When asked about how she comes to terms with her success, Gatwood replied, “Where I am now is never where I dreamed to be as a young person.”
Domenica Castro is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with a minor in Spanish. ✉ DC874612@wcupa.edu.