Title: New American Best Friend
Author: Olivia Gatwood
Length: 160 pages
Published by: Button Poetry
Pub date: March 28th, 2017
Source: I purchased a copy for myself from BD.
My Rating: ★★★★★
Check out the poet’s website!
The short version: I always get a little nervous whenever I pick up a poetry collection that’s been written by a performance poet. But, in this case, Olivia Gatwood is absolutely incredible in whatever form her poetry takes.
The long version: In New American Best Friend Gatwood talks about her struggles with femininity from youth through adulthood, and nothing is off limits. This collection jumps right to the heart of what it means to grow up, first as a girl and then as a woman in a world where she never feels completely welcome.
“we are nearly dry when we notice
that the ash is fluttering down
like gray snowflakes
and we do as any child would-
we catch them in our mouths”
–Dry Season, 2003
These poems touch on both the highlights and struggles of being a woman. A lot of the excitement that comes from womanhood and coming into your own is vividly expressed through experience time and again, showing the adventure of exploring one’s sexuality and identity, the unspoken camaraderie that exists between women, and the strength that comes with accepting all that you are. Gatwood captures the joys of femininity, the ability to navigate the world and see it for what it could be.
But she never lets that sugarcoat what the world is. Gatwood doesn’t pull her punches when writing about the struggles of womanhood. She calls out women (including herself) for fighting against each other. She writes about the angry moments; the times when women are taken advantage of, used and abused. And she writes about the fearful moments; moments that are heart-stopping because they’re moments we’ve all experienced.
“The men re-tighten my bolts just for safe measure.
The men open my car door, Ladies first.
The men are always helping.
One man asks how I reach the pedals.
One man asks where my daddy is.
One man opens his trunk and says,
Bet you’re small enough to fit”
– The Autocross
The undercurrent of the whole collection is one of female power, a power that can only be earned through years of hidden grief. With clever turns-of-phrase and poignant stories, Gatwood builds an ode to women out of the pieces of her own history, tied together in a book that encourages and empowers women to be all they could be.
Thanks for reading!
Have you read this book yet? If so, what did you think? If not, do you plan to? What are some of your favorite poetry books? Let me know in the comments below!