World-renowned poet Olivia Gatwood, delivered an electrifying performance to an awe-struck Colorado College audience on the evening of Oct. 25. As a part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Gatwood brought an unapologetic style to the dialogue surrounding domestic violence. Her direct and impactful poetry addressed a variety of themes with humor and brevity. Covering subjects from the proper way to deal with periods to female serial killers, the performance was captivating.
After a passionate opening performance by CC’s own spoken word group, Speakeasy, Gatwood got straight to business. She mixed casual anecdotes and a razor-sharp wit to keep the audience enthralled from subtle beginning to climactic conclusion. Each poem explored a different topic but had a common theme: rejection of the norm. Gatwood took pride in objects and events that are usually associated with shame. One poem, Ode to My Resting Bitch Face, used the juvenile insult as a platform for empowerment. An off-putting expression to some is safety for others.
Gatwood’s approach to performing was intensely personal. She never pretended to have all the answers and her poetry came from her own perspective. It was about a woman trying to deal with a complicated, messy world. She gave voice to often undiscussed parts of life, especially parts of life and experiences unique to women. In doing so, she built a shared narrative.
Gatwood didn’t shy away from the dirty details. While at times graphic, the poetry struck a chord with the audience. A witty quip or piece of pithy wisdom often prompted the auditorium to erupt in knowing laughter. Everyone was on the same page.
The Colorado College audience loved the performance. Long after its conclusion, students gathered to discuss Gatwood’s words. The excitement was palpable. “Olivia is hilarious and relatable, and we brought her for the accessibility she brings to issues that are otherwise difficult to talk about” said Susanna Penfield ‘20, one of the organizers of the event. “This night was about calling attention to those issues, both through her poetry as well as direct representation of groups who also engage in domestic violence work, and in that I think it was a huge success.” Some students voiced gratitude that someone had finally put their feelings into words, especially in such a public setting. Gatwood may have been speaking about her experience as a woman, but her message and her powerful delivery seemed to resonate with people of every gender in attendance.
Gatwood’s final line echoed through Richard F. Celeste Theatre and summed up her unapologetic style: “When they call you a bitch, say thank you.”
If you are interested in attending future spoken word events on campus, Speakeasy’s next performance will be Monday, Nov. 12, at 6 p.m. in Bemis Great Hall.