Written by Jacob Cavett
Photographed by Lindsay Higgins
Olivia Strickland has a number of literary tattoos: an outline of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a quote from the Chronicles of Narnia, Eustace Scrubb in dragon form, and the magical Dawn Treader ship. Most interesting of all is a geometric design that includes the entire English alphabet. In it, Olivia finds all twenty-six ingredients needed to create her favorite art—poetry.
Sometimes, those creations are drafted in her favorite nearby graveyard, where she feels connected to and inspired by the past. Other times, her writing is stitched together from crumpled papers on her floor. “My process is bits and pieces here and there,” Olivia says. “Somehow it’s like a quilt that comes together in the end—or doesn’t.” Olivia cites her favorite poet as Wallace Stevens, especially noting that “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” showed her that poetry can change the way she sees everything. Wayne Cox, Olivia’s first creative writing professor and now Senior Seminar mentor, is another major influence for her writing.
Olivia holds herself to the standards of both careless artist and ruthless editor. In other words, she aspires to freely express herself without censor, but later cut any pieces that distract from the meaning of her writing. To her, poetry should not be filtered in such a way that her meaning does not get across, but rather in a way that only her meaning gets across. Weaknesses that Olivia tries to avoid in her poetry include sentimentality and poor editing. She doesn’t rely on charged topics like depression or assault to carry the weight in her poetry. Instead, she explores the meanings and experiences of such subjects to earn her readers’ attention and emotion.
In addition to publishing her work, Olivia has many other aspirations for her future. She hopes to go to graduate school for an MFA in Creative Writing, possibly in England. She would love to get her Ph.D. in English, but if not, she also has an interest in mortuary science. Since her father is a pastor, she has been to many funerals over the years and likes the idea of doing something that other people may not be able to handle, as well as having plenty of alone time to think up her next masterpiece. Regardless of her career, Olivia will always pursue her passion of poetry. “It’s something I’ll never be able to stop doing, never be able to stop growing in.”