The Life of the Party by Olivia Gatwood
Expected Publication Date: August 27, 2019 by Dial Press
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.44 Stars
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
i’m a good girl, bad girl, sad girl, dream girl
girl next door sunbathing in the driveway
i wanna be them all at once, i wanna be
all the girls i’ve ever loved
Lauded for the power of her writing and having attracted an online fan base of millions for her extraordinary spoken-word performances, Olivia Gatwood is a thrilling new voice in contemporary feminist poetry. In Life of the Party, she weaves together her own coming of age with an investigation into our culture’s romanticization of violence against women. In precise, searing language–at times blistering and riotous, at times soulful and exuberant–she explores the boundary between what is real and what is imagined in a life saturated with fear. How does one grow from a girl to a woman in a world wracked by violence? Where is the line between perpetrator and victim? What is the meaning of bravery? Visceral and haunting, this multifaceted collection illustrates that what happens to our bodies makes us who we are.
I remember immediately hauling My American Best Friend when it released. It felt like all of a sudden there were poetry collections being released left and right. I sped through it, devouring Gatwood’s words so quickly and loving it. Of course, I was very excited to see that she had another release coming out and even more excited when approved via Netgalley to read it.
In the beginning of this collection, Gatwood explains herself. She explains how she basically fell down this rabbit hole of consuming tons and tons of true crime. She asked herself one day, what role do poets play in the romanticization of the murdering of young girls and women. This collection was born.
I’ve always heard that Little Red Riding Hood is this precautionary tale for women to not go out *in the woods* alone, and that’s how I felt as I read Life of the Party. The poetry reflects both what it’s like to come of age as a young woman and just how damn terrifying it is to exist as a woman.
I loved it. Everything from the angsty teenage nostalgia I felt:
“I will assure them over & over that we loved each other, we did, I will say, I used up a whole disposable camera taking photos of him & when I got them developed at the pharmacy, I also bought a single Frame & chose the picture I loved mot & propped it up next to my bed, I will say, isn’t that the most teenager thing? & the listener will relax, comfortable now with this familiar love they too lived once.
To the down right terrifying:
“Everything is tragic. Everything has either already happened or never will. The boy keeps saying it could have been me, as if that concert, that night, was my only shot at dead-girl stardom and now that I’ve just barely missed the grip of some quiet janitor, I’ve got a long life ahead.”
Collections like Gatwood’s, Life of the Party, restores my faith in poetry. I never 100% lost it, but there were a few years where it felt like everything coming out was trash and hard to read. Gatwood showcases that poets are paying attention and as storytellers have a job to not only pay attention but to speak out. I like how hard she is riding for young girls and women in this one. She sees you and she is your biggest cheerleader. She’s been there, done that and got pissed off.
I think whether you’re new to poetry or already a fan this is definitely a collection you should be checking for. If you’re already a poetry lover, you will more than likely speed through this but if this is your first time with Gatwood, I recommend consuming it in bits a pieces. Read a poem or two then set the collection down and let them sink in. It’s a fantastic ride and I wouldn’t want you to miss out on anything.
Until next time, take care of yourselves.