Melissa Lozada-Oliva Poems You Need In Your Life
Who is Melissa Lozada-Oliva? If you don't stalk the Button Poetry Youtube channel like I do, you might not recognize the name.
Melissa's official facebook page claims her to be "a spoken word poet living in Boston."
Her Twitter describes her as "sensitive & already offended."
Her Tumblr about page uses terms like "bookstore babe" and "gap-toothed bruja."
So here's my go at it: Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a luminescent firecracker of a woman, and if you're interested poetry, feminism, feelings, or The Human Condition™ - then the poems below are for you.
-Without further ado and in no particular order -
Four Kick-Ass Melissa Lozada-Oliva Poems:
Because I Tried to Pick One and Couldn't
"'Strep Throat is serious,' she says. 'It can lead to cardiac arrest if you keep getting it.'
So maybe my tonsils are in an older and more serious relationship.
The kind where you don't tell anyone that things are wrong because it's the only way you've known love - and your own mouth."
There is something so simple and yet so heart-breakingly true in the language of this poem. The metaphor of tonsils and reoccurring strep throat as a toxic relationship is not complicated, but damn is it strong. So often, people aren't taught what abuse is, let alone that they don't deserve it, until it's too late. So often, we don't call ourselves survivors until years later when we know better. This poem is an anthem for every person who has woken up terrified of their own life and decided to make a change.
And one of my favorite things about Melissa's poetry is that she doesn't tie everything up with a bow and tell you your life will get better if you just take her advice. This poem in particular ends in a definitive question mark. Her poem says: this is what I did to survive. It wasn't pretty or fun. I'm not even sure it was the right choice. But I'm still here, and that's what matters to me.
"It's like maybe everything girls do is evolution of defense mechanism. Like this is protection.
Like our 'like's are our knee pads,
Our 'um's are the knives we tuck into our boots at night,
Our 'you know's are the best friends we call when we're walking down a dark alley.
Like this is how we breathe easier."
This poem is so clever and poignant. It brings to the foreground just how much women's speech is nitpicked and dictated by others, especially young women by older men; and by extension, how young women's lives are dictated by older men in all senses. Melissa offers an opposing view to Taylor Mali's "Totally Like Whatever, You Know" which criticizes young women's less-than-declaritive speech patterns, with the idea that women's speech should be celebrated solely for the fact that women's voices are finally being used.
"'Ok,' Yosra says. 'This is the most middle-eastern thing I've ever done.'
And I think of the most Guatemalan-Colombian thing I've ever done.
And maybe it's grow
and not feel the hairs scream and fall around me,
but knowing and believing they're there.
I think about the most American thing we've ever done
and it's hide in this bathroom."
I love this piece for one of the many reasons I fall head-over-handlebars for all of Melissa's work: and that's the sheer, unbridled honesty. In this poem, Melissa captures such a tender and crucial moment of kindred souls and realization. She lays her insecurities and fears out on the table without hiding behind hyperboles or imagery. This poem allows us to experience a real life moment from the perspective of someone other than ourselves, and the way it evokes emotion and empathy so organically is amazing.
"My Spanish is 'soooo hungry...'
My Spanish reaches for words at the top of a shelf
with no stepping stool
Is hit in the head with all of the words
that had been hiding up there.
My Spanish wonders if it's bad to eat something that's expired.
My Spanish wonders if it has an expiration date.
My Spanish asks you why it's always being compared to food: 'es spicy - hot - sizzle...'
My Spanish wants to let you know it is not something to be eaten and then shit out
But does not really believe it."
The comparisons in this poem just blow me away. This poem is like shapes printed on translucent paper being laid on top of each other one by one until a cohesive understanding forms. The tension in the poem is wonderfully paced, building softly with unassuming parallels like soggy puzzles and lipstick marks on tooth brushes, and growing into a second story of her parent's divorce. The poem questions how memory and experience influence heritage, which is something everyone ends up questioning at some point in their lives.