Thought Catalog
March 31, 2017

Olivia Gatwood’s Debut Poetry Collection Is The Book I Wish I Had As A Teenage Girl

Report This Article
What is the issue?
oligat / instagram
New American Best Friend / Button Poetry

To say Olivia Gatwood is a powerhouse of a poet still somehow feels like an undersell. Widely known for her spoken word performances, Gatwood has just released her debut poetry collection, New American Best Friend. With unflinching honesty and a sharp tongue, Gatwood consistently breaks down stereotypes and explores the joys, the triumphs, the expectations, the violences, the questioning and all that comes with contemporary American womanhood.

(Basically, this book is GOOD. Seriously, it’s good.)

If you need a little more convincing, I’ll let Olivia do what she does best. I’ve included 8 of my personal favorite excerpts. But honestly, it feels a bit like picking a favorite child. You love them all. You really, really do.

1.

“I am nine.
We are bored
and Karen is dying.

We drove to Austin that summer
so Sarah’s dad—

who described Karen as
the great and impossible love
of his life, who taught us

the word lymphoma and then,
the concept of the prefix,
how it explains where the tumor lives—

could say goodbye.”

— THE FIRST SHAVE

2.

“blush so pink i saw it on a commercial
blush so pink on cable television
blush so pink the model dips her finger in the jar
and slides it across her cupcake cheeks
so pink i save up seven dollars
so pink i walk to the pharmacy
so pink the makeup aisle is a soda fountain
strawberry milk in the mini carton
blush so pink like panther
like raspberry lemonade feather boa baby shower
so pink like holiday for love
blush so pink i wish it was my name”

— BUBBLEGUM OR BRUISE

3.

“Reina is upset that I am American
and not rich. These two details disrupt everything
Reina has ever been made to believe in the church
of MTV, in which she learned
that along with a new American best friend,
Reina deserves a new American
best friend’s mom—suburban queen—
and a new American best friend’s brother
who will take her to second base in our basement,
but unfortunately for Reina,
we don’t have a basement, we live in the Sunset Motel
where I collect snails and eat chicken and ketchup
sandwiches for dinner.”

— THE ONLY THING I BROUGHT FROM AMERICA

4.

“i slam down the glass until it cracks up the side and now the game is about who will still drink from it, who will risk shards in the belly, who will cut up their insides for a pack of newports and it’s not that i even want the cigarettes, it’s just that i am not afraid of blood which is also part of being a girl. but being the only girl means making yourself lose when you’ve won too much so i bounce the coin off the rim of the shot glass and let johnny slice me open.”

— BACKPEDAL

5.

“Dream Girl, your almost broken accessory.
Manic Pixie Dream Girl says

Let’s play make believe with my body.

I’ll be a vintage dress with an empty prescription
bottle, good girl, just bad enough

a burp
and a curtsy,

let me be not too pretty
hair fried from all of that pink dye

sex when you need it puppet when you’re bored,
let me build myself smaller than you,

let me apologize when I get caught acting bigger than you.
Let me always wait for this, let me work for this.”

— MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL SAYS

6.

“I felt like a school teacher
who goes home to no children,
a cab driver without a car,

a therapist who cries
in the middle of the night
and can’t figure out why.”

— WHAT SEX BECOMES

7.

“i am twenty-four and have never cried. once, a boy told me he doesn’t ‘believe in labels’ so i embroidered the word chauvinist on the back of his favorite coat. a boy said he liked my hair the other way so i shaved my head instead of my pussy.”

— ALTERNATE UNIVERSE IN WHICH I AM UNFAZED BY THE MEN WHO DO NOT LOVE ME

8.

“they will tell you home is safe zone
no, bitch face is safe zone,
bitch face is home
bitch face is cutting off the ladder
willing to burn in the apartment
if it means he can’t get in.”

— ODE TO MY BITCH FACE

To order New American Best Friend, click here.

TC mark

Read This