"Waxing" Poetic: Olivia Gatwood Performance Review

Olivia Gatwood Reading

March 17, 2018

7 p.m.

at The Hosting

University of Michigan campus

Here's an Olivia Gatwood Playlist for your listening and viewing pleasure.

…While I am NOT proud and have come from mighty humble beginnings, but when I saw that there were floor seats and chair seats, I automatically walked straight to the chairs. –And the dog? Don’t get me to talking about the fucking dog…. Ambiance? Having talked all that shit, I can honestly say that I appreciate Anya Klapischak and her venture, The Hosting, for allowing us to see who I would come to agree is an amazing poet in an up-close and intimate setting. Anya, founder and proprietor of The Hosting, runs an art gallery and a performance space on central campus at University of Michigan. She is stepping out there and making shit happen on terms that appear to be all her own.

—Let me back up: This evening, I took Zandalee (my daughter) and her friends to a poetry reading. —No, I did not know the poet. Zandalee’s buddy had done a school project on her, though, and knew her poems well. I had planned to—at least—skim one before the recital, but I did not find the time and so, there we are, pulled up to a house in Ann Arbor, Michigan, that both serves as an art gallery AND the site of this particular poetry reading.

Olivia Gatwood book, New American Best Friend

–Anyway, I was glad to have discovered Olivia Gatwood, who, without knowing anything else about her except what she was sharing during her reading, seems like a future university professor gone rogue…. (­–Or is that a redundancy????) I was happy to have been charmed by her. The main chink in her armor, if you ask me is that she was a little paranoid about being a crime statistic. While bad things do happen to women on a regular basis, I believe it is what we focus on that we make happen, so, aside from maintaining safety protocols, I feel secure that I will live out my life uneventfully in that regard.

Know that I’ve noted that, it was the beauty of her language that compelled me. Even if she did have rap on her workout playlist; yeah, sadly, she lost some points there. But it was the richness of her stories that brought me around. Even if she talked too much about periods and tampons and murder. –Again, minus a few points. –It was her daring to forego what could have been a “perfectly” well-adjusted professor life to live this weird on-the-road poet thing that kept me captivated. (I guess, I was seeing a little of myself in her—but that’s a story for another, deeper, darker blog post.)

I want to share with you some extracts of our experience, but I don’t want you to mistake this for a replacement for attending her performance yourself or for reading her book yourself; I just want to share a little of what happened for us on this crisp March evening.

Here's a snippet of the reading we saw.

My favorite poems were “Resting Bitch Face” and “Alternate Universe,” which she performed for us live. However, after copping her book, New American Best Friend, I can see that there are several others that could have easily have stolen the spotlight.

Realizing that we all need our “hook,” Haywood’s is the lingering fear of female untimely and gruesome death. (She recommended several resources, like podcasts and a book or two, about that very niche topic.) Even if that is one of her true passions/fetishes, since moving to my new can-do headspace—one where I left much of that negativity (and, yes, my mom and I have been victims to a few close tragic calls) behind. I agree with her that we must face that trauma, but in order for me to truly move into my best life, I have put that in its proper place for me, which is not as the focus of my life now). She does a great job as a cheerleader and rallier for that terrible reality. Her other hook is that I am a woman and I will give you bloody menstrual cycle stories with well described details shtick. (I would prefer NOT to gross you out with this one and would suggest that if you even remotely curious, then check her out.) Since this is a topic that is taboo for many—even in this day and age—folks are at the edge of their seats to see her smiling through her pretty white teeth as she describes losing a tampon in her vagina when she was 14.

Yuck. Eww. Oh, and the final hook that I failed to mention is her bisexuality. This nifty little fact surely adds flavor to many of her puberty tales—kissing her best friend was her “real” first kiss etcetera. These types of juicy details makes the audience lean forward as she shares her “truth.” I get it; nowadays everybody claims to be bisexual; it’s just that she has the stories to prove it.

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I must say I feel enlightened after having been introduced to her poetry (and to this creative space, The Hosting). (Thanks, Lilly! Thanks, Zandalee!) I was originally simply providing a ride, but ended up on a ride myself. Good art does that.

I guess this goes to prove that you never know what wondrous people and places you can discover, if you’ll decide to provide that ride!

What weird and wonderful people and places have you discovered as a result of having simply given someone a ride?

Until next time, enjoy the ride. And, as always, peace, love, and chicken grease!

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