Meet Camille Ollivierre

 

Interview by Sophie Austin | Edited by Sydney Hamilton

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✨ Camille Ollivierre is a sophomore at Smith College in Northampton, MA and a poet With an innovative way of dealing with writer’s block. Read her interview with PHAZE Magazine to learn more about Camille’s experience with writing poetry:


Q: What made you start writing poetry and when did you begin?

A: As a young girl I found that, often enough, those around me did not take me, or my ideas, seriously. Around the 7th grade I began to run for a place in which I could express my true self, the side other refused to hear. I began writing, truly, to cope with emotions I could not share with others, and because writing my emotions down on paper released the pressure of the thoughts pounding and scratching inside of my head. The days I'd write, I'd enter my room with a shortness of breath and tears on my chubby cheeks. I quickly scribbled and stabbed at the paper before me, and suddenly I was able to regain my strength. I think it was in those moments that I knew that through my writing my readers would experience my breath. They'd experience my suffocating moments of utter silence, and by the end of my piece, they too could breathe. They too could experience a sense of relief.

 

Q: Who/what do you find inspires your poems? Do you carry around a journal and take notes on anything in your everyday life that piques your interest?

A: As humans we all possess different narratives, and I didn't accept mine until I was in high school. By the age of 17 I began to personalize my pieces, I felt the need to indirectly share the intimate pieces of my past although I desperately tried to separate my disturbing past and my, then, present. That was an uncomfortable process, however, I took my time. I began to journal, slowly regaining the power to use words that I had refused to use for years, simply because they were associated with my trauma. Still, I didn't journal very often. I was not, and I still am not consistent. However, that's what I love most about writing. You don't have to be consistent. You write and produce as you please. It's spontaneous. It's sometimes the only aspect of my life I feel in control of.

 

Q: Do you find yourself interested in a specific subject, object, or theme that repeatedly comes across in your writing?

A: I think that one recurring theme that is illustrated through my poetry is the trauma inflicted upon black bodies. They all possess a multitude of identities and background stories that must be heard. With that being said, the most common forms of trauma I write about would have to be the rape and sexual assault of femme appearing individuals.

 

Q: How often do you experience writer’s block? What helps to allow your ideas to flow once again?

A: Writer’s block is a feeling I experience far too often. I've learned a few methods of avoiding it, however not all of them have worked for me. I've heard that I should force myself to write, and to be at peace with the idea that I won't always produce glorious pieces of writing. Sometimes you sit and write, and everything you've written is awful. Sometimes you sit and write, and everything you've written is salvageable. Everything depends on you. It's all about giving yourself time, and accepting that writing is a process. That's worked for me. Often, I find myself jotting notes down in my journal because it's easier to organize my thoughts. I will say that if I really want to write, but can’t, I usually sit in the dark, play some music (SZA, Willow, J. Cole, etc.) and sip on Lipton tea with milk and a little bit of honey. I simply sit there and wait until I feel a poem lingering in the tip of my fingertips.

 

Q: Why do you continue to produce poetic content. What is it about poetry that keeps drawing you to it?

A: I think that it's beneficial to share my narrative simply because there are so many other people that share my experiences and feel as though they're alone. I felt that way, however now I know that we all can support each other. Through writing we can release our inner demons, reward ourselves with momentary peace and share it with those who've experienced any form of trauma, much like myself.

 


Here are Some of her Poems:


B38

I’ve walked home countless nights with

The clicking of my glossy heels upon the Forte Green pavement

As my sole reminder that I am a living and breathing being

The faint sound of my breath, and the emptiness of the nippy Brooklyn air

Causes me to panic, walk faster

And violently pull out one headphone from my plugged up ear

 

I remembered that I was a young woman, alone, walking home at night

A young woman of color whose teenage body has been over sexualized by bearded men

Old enough to be my grandfather

Whose body may appear to be unimportant

And merely youthful through her own eyes

But mature and distracting through the glued eyes of men

 

I remember the smell of hennessy on my lips

And a beard rubbing on the corners of my mouth

and the entirety of my chin

I remember the overwhelming feeling of disgust within my stomach

And the shattering feeling of shame within my heart

I remember the,

“Damnnnnn”

and the

“You seventeen?”

I remember the jarring honking of a black cab on Kosciuszko street at 7:15 AM

and the

“Mami lemme talk to you”

the

“Can I have yo number? No? You got facebook”

 

I remembered the glued eyes, crooked smiles and smirks of men walking through my neighborhood

and their  “Good Morning” and “You have a nice day mami”

 

I peered down the block of Lafayette and Grand Avenue, in hopes of being blinded by the intensely yellow B38 bus lights

I walked towards the edge of the curb

Near a bright yellow corner store

fresh meat

beer

coffee

sandwiches

I could only think

Is today the day that I encounter my rapist

Is today the day that

“Excuse me miss”

“Damn ma”

or “Let me talk to you beautiful”

Become far more than I can handle

Is today the day that my conservative parents are proven right

That in order to remain safe

I should be home by 8 o’clock

That I should never wear fitted pants without wearing a oversized shirt to cover my butt

Is today the day that

Cam Cam where are you

Is left unread

Will 1092, bell #2, even ring tonight

To be Vincentian American

I’ve learned that to be Vincentian American, is to be cultured

To be choked and squeezed by traditional values, and the fear of change

To be woken up on Sunday mornings by the heavy humming of vacuums and sweet churning of silver rusted pots

To tippy toe out of my bedroom and be embraced by the aroma of seasoned, boiled and baked ham

Of fried plantains, salted yolks and ovaltine tea

 

I’ve learned that the best stories taste like pilau, ripe plantains, and callaloo

Smell like saltfish, coconut dumplings, and sorel

Sound like the chiming of sharpened, yet worn out cutlesses

The splitting of coconuts

And the unscrewed caps of Sunset Strong Rum dancing on a wooden table

Sound like the splashing of Bequia’s crystal clear water, small airplanes and unstoppable cries
 

Like vacuums, mops and no money

I’ve learned that the more you travel away from home, the more of yourself you leave behind

The more you question words that once delightfully danced upon your tongue

But now wither at the touch of your golden teeth

I’ve learned that whining, moth balls and Beckett can be good for an old soul

That softly swaying broad, beautiful hips and side stepping can put your guilty mind at ease

 

I've learned that West Indian women aren't free

Our spirits have been beaten, burned, and buried alive

I’ve learned that my relationship with West Indian men is fragile

That nobody boils up, and beats on beautiful faces

That nobody cheats and cuss

And hurt me the way they do

 

I've learned that no one stares at my body

Nobody traces the outline of my hips

Nobody grips or grabs at my waist

Nobody violates me the way they do

 

I’ve learned that they don’t care about day, my crappy mornings,

The days I can't move out of bed

The days I want to leave this body,

This unmistakable target

 

I've learned that ripe Vincentian girls are held close to their mother's chest, for a reason

Neah Gray