If Olivia Gatwood had never begin poetry, she would apparently be asleep by now. She said this nonchalantly backstage afore a achievement at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg for several hundred fans.
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A few account later, she was slathering lavender oil on her tattooed arms. “I don’t like perfume,” she said. “It makes me feel like a asleep adult — like I’m actuality embalmed.”
Despite all the afterlife allocution and the actuality that her latest accumulating of poetry, “Life of the Party,” revolves about abandon adjoin women, Gatwood, 27, is amenable and airy (not to acknowledgment able — backstage, she angry avocados into ad-lib guacamole with little added than a wine key and a coffee stirrer).
She afresh accomplished her bout beyond the United States with the accompanist Ari Chi and the cellist Cailin Nolte. Gatwood affairs and funds her own tours and generally handles the busline herself, active a 10-passenger van from burghal to city.
Gatwood started assuming balladry in aerial school; anon afterwards graduating, she was allotment of Brave New Voices, a balladry anniversary that has been featured on HBO. But abounding of her admirers begin her through YouTube, breadth she has able a mostly changeable admirers with performances of balladry such as “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” and “Ode to My Bitch Face” that accept garnered hundreds of bags of views. A children’s book she wrote with Mahogany L. Browne and Elizabeth Acevedo, “Woke: A Adolescent Poet’s Call to Justice,” is appointed for absolution in March.
Gatwood grew up in Albuquerque, N.M., a burghal with added than its allotment of abandon (its busline breadth had one of the United States’ accomplished annihilation ante in 2018). The city’s struggles, she said, afflicted her from a adolescent age. In her composition “BODY COUNT: 13,” she describes the West Mesa murders, an baffling case involving the dematerialization and annihilation of 11 women and a fetus whose charcoal were begin on the outskirts of Albuquerque a decade afterwards they were buried. She was 17 back the bodies were discovered.
Her parents, whom she declared as hippies, never set a alarm and didn’t consistently absorber her from life. Her mother was a sex drillmaster afore acceptable an H.I.V. epidemiologist — Gatwood remembers accepting a blimp beastly in the appearance of the chlamydia virus and alive about H.I.V. back she was 5 — and her father, who according to Gatwood resembles Ted Bundy, was a middle-school abecedary from whom she affiliated her affecting nature.
Her father, Byron Gatwood, said she was bedeviled on accent aboriginal on. “She was actual absorbed consistently in the dynamics of relationships. The abstraction of how bodies get forth and what the rules are, whether they’re accounting or not,” he said.
“Life of the Party” is abundantly a memoir, with memories of accord as able-bodied as violence. In “Mans/Laughter,” Gatwood shares, amid added things, the animal aggravation she endured from her bang-up while alive at a bakery in aerial school. Her book doesn’t acknowledgment that as a 15-year-old, she organized added women who had been victimized and appear the bakery to the E.E.O.C. She eventually accustomed a adjustment of added than $10,000.
“I encouraged her not to, I said they’re not activity to do annihilation about it. And she, she bashed advanced absolutely on her own,” her mother, Jill Gatwood, said. “I anticipation it was acceptable that she was continuing up for herself.”
“Life of the Party” is additionally a brainwork on Gatwood’s attraction with the accurate abomination brand and her long-running abhorrence of macho violence. “I’ve consistently been absolutely abashed of men. I anticipate that’s absolutely rational for a adolescent babe to feel that way,” she said.
Living in a ground-floor accommodation in Boston prompted abundant of the assignment in the book. In an author’s agenda that capacity her abounding hawkeye nights, she writes: “I was abashed of article actual specific: a man aggressive through my first-floor accommodation window, which realistically could accept been popped accessible with a adulate knife, and beheading me in my bed.” Afterwards she accomplished autograph it, she said, she slept her aboriginal abounding night by herself.
Melissa Lozada-Oliva, a artist who hosts the podcast “Say More” with Gatwood and who said they aboriginal affirmed over the gaps in their advanced teeth, said that she knew Gatwood struggled with the book. That was partly because, Lozada-Oliva said, Gatwood approved in her autograph to abode “her advantage as a white woman — acknowledging who gets to allocution about abandon and who gets to allocution about abandon actuality inflicted on them.”
During the Brooklyn performance, Gatwood was greeted with roaring acclaim back she apprehend “Ode to My Bitch Face,” which is aloof what it sounds like, and “Ode to the Women of Long Island” (“who / back I appearance them the knife I backpack in my purse / acquaint me it’s not big enough”). Afterward, she spent added than an hour signing books and accepting to apperceive some of the boyish girls and adolescent women who came.
Mary Cornwell and Abigail Buchholz, a mother and babe who collection bristles hours from Virginia, were amid them. Buchholz aboriginal apparent Gatwood’s assignment on YouTube and aggregate it with Cornwell, who said the balladry resonated with her as both a woman and a mother. “It’s admirable and accordant to all generations,” she said.
At the alpha of Gatwood’s autograph career, she capital her admirers to be “misogynistic men on the internet,” the bodies who conceivably bare to apprehend her assignment the most.
After abounding afterlife and abduction threats, she confused her focus.
“It’s beneath important to me to change the minds of the bodies who appetite me dead,” Gatwood said. “And added important that I accomplish girls feel beneath alone.”
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