The University of New Mexico Women’s Resource Center hosted poet Olivia Gatwood for an evening of spoken word poetry and for a writing workshop. Gatwood is an Albuquerque native and is known across the country for her slam poetry.
The Women’s Resource Center invited Gatwood to perform as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, said Sarah East, a communications assistant at the Women’s Resource Center.
Gatwood frequently participates in lectures to educate students about Title IX, East said.
The writing workshop, titled “Reclaiming Shame,” focused on writing poetry that reclaimed shame that we often feel in our lives, Gatwood said.
Shame is one of the only emotions people cause for others and is an emotion that is projected onto the individual when they are told they should feel ashamed, she said.
Poetry is a way to reclaim that shame, according to Gatwood. The workshop asked students to write odes to something they felt ashamed about.
An ode acknowledges and even celebrates the thing individuals have been told to be ashamed of, she said.
Gatwood teaches this particular workshop all around the country. She came up with the idea to write about shame by examining her own writing, she said.
Poetry is a great way to address sexual assault. Poetry grabs the audience’s attention and gets them to listen, even when they aren’t initially interested in the topic, she said.
“I think poetry is accessible, and a lot of the time the education about sexual assault is not only inaccurate but not engaging, and so students tune out. It’s a vital conversation to not tune out of,” Gatwood said.
Gatwood began writing poetry while attending Albuquerque High School and always knew she wanted to be a writer, she said.
Gatwood didn’t know she would write for work until a year after she graduated college, she said.
Her book is titled, “New American Best Friend” and tells about her experiences as an adolescent female. The poems address teenhood, intimacy, queerness and bodies, Gatwood said.
Many of her poems take place in Albuquerque, but some take place in Trinidad, where she lived in middle school. The poems also address the pressure of being a teenager in the U.S., especially as a girl, she said.
“It is a poetic handbook for teenage girls,” Gatwood said.
She said she suggests anyone interested in writing or becoming a poet attend open mic nights and read other people’s work, because they can learn from them, Gatwood said.
“Read more than you write and listen more than you speak,” she said.
Megan Holmen is a freelance reporter for news and culture at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_holmen.