Girls Who Make Art: Interview with Poets Olivia Gatwood and Megan Falley
Illustration by: Sabrina C. S.
Megan Falley is a queer femme author of poetry books, After the Witch Hunt, and, Redhead and the Slaughter King. She is also a Woman of The World and National Poetry Slam finalist. Olivia Gatwood is the author of the chapbook, Drunk Sugar. She is also a finalist of the Brave New Voices, Woman of the World, and National Poetry Slam competitions. This past year they toured across the USA with their feminist poetry show Speak Like a Girl.
When did you start writing poetry?
Megan Falley: I’ve been writing poems since I was a kid. Most of them were about Leonardo DiCaprio.
Olivia Gatwood: I started writing poetry when I was fourteen or fifteen.
How has your poetry evolved over the years?
MF: I’m gay so I don’t really write about Leonardo DiCaprio.
OG: When I was in high school I was straddling these two identities of poet and jock. I was sick of sexism in the sport, so my way of expressing these things was through poetry. I had played soccer for fifteen years and quit, but eventually joined poetry club full-time. In retrospect, I wish I had continued to do both. Eventually though, this led to youth poetry slams, national poetry slams, and grew from a passion to a career.
Do you have a writing process?
MF: I’m still trying to figure it out. I have a pretty impatient process — if a very decent first draft of a poem can’t be finished in less than an hour, it most likely won’t ever reach an audience. Right now I am big on revising to make sure that everything I write has 100% emotional truth. Coffee helps.
Obstacles in my writing for me are a nagging voice that says I have nothing new or important to say, or that all of my best work is behind me. Other obstacles would be my own laziness to show up to the page, or to commit to something that isn’t immediately working.
OG: Yeah I do. I work largely off of rage. An obstacle in my writing is how to enter a poem. Reading other poems helps me start a poem, so I make sure I have other poetry books in front of me when I am writing.
What inspires you?
MF: Other art, mostly: lyrics in folk songs, short stories and television written by women, independent film. People creating stuff I like drives me to create stuff I like. I’m also driven by tragic musicians, gender and sexuality, and the many faces of violence.
OG: We write what we know. What I know is what it is like to be a girl, and what it is like to be a girl in an athletic setting. I am largely inspired by rage, especially from sexism and patriarchy.
Do you have any favorite poets?
MF: Sharon Olds, Natalie Diaz, Conor Oberst, and people who are poets by accident.
OG: Ada Limón, Ross Gay, Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, and Janae Johnson.
Do you have a favorite poem you have written?
MF: That changes. Right now the poem that’s most fun for me to perform is titled, ‘So I’m Out With a Friend When She Says She’s a Goldstar Lesbian and a Dude Says, Wait, You Mean You’ve Never Had Sex?” But I think my best crafted poem at the moment is called “He/Him/His.” I prefer my fiction work, actually, but don’t have many opportunities to read it out loud.
OG: Of what is know on the internet, “Ode To My Bitch Face.”
What caused you to start Speak Like a Girl?
MF: Olivia Gatwood and I were on a slam team together and found writing in collaboration really natural and fun. I was already a full-time poet but realized how much Olivia’s style and talent complimented my own work, and I asked her to go on the road. Then it kind of just kept growing and we kept growing with it.
OG: The show didn't start off as a show on sexual assault, it was just broad. Sexual assault is an epidemic with lots of inaccurate information. We realized that, and catered our whole show to be about it.
What effects have you seen Speak Like a Girl have on others?
MF: Tears of validation. Body positivity. Embracing the selfie. Men being blown open, shocked, wanting change. Conversations about sexual assault on campus unearthed. People “coming out” to me. Girls telling their stories for the first time.
OG: As much as I don't want there to be a community of women who have been sexually assaulted because it is a horrible and sad image, we were able to form a community nationwide. Those who saw the show felt motivated to speak up on campus. The show has helped to validate experiences of students.
What advice would you give to female poets?
MF: My advice to poets doesn’t vary by gender. Read. Make writing a practice, a ritual, not a sporadic thing. Write poems that you’re not the victim of and no one else is the villain of. Don’t be afraid to write about joy.
OG: I would say you should write the story you needed to read. I like to write the story I think my teenage self would have needed.
Do you have any upcoming projects?
MF: I have a top secret project coming up that I can hardly keep myself quiet about, but definitely keep up with me on social media to find out in the coming months!
OG: Yes, I will be touring individually this fall, and releasing a book on Button Poetry next spring called New American Best Friend.