Interview: Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Can you start by telling the readers a little about yourself? (Family, career, etc.)

Wow hello I am Melissa. I’m a nationally touring poet, an MFA candidate at NYU in the creative writing program for poetry, & an occasional bookseller. I’m a virgo. My mom is from Guatemala & my dad is from Colombia. I have bangs.

Story-telling was a huge part of my upbringing. It was the way we unwound at the end of the day, the way we made each other laugh, the way we protected each other, the way we held each other close.

You are a poet. Did you know growing up that this was what you wanted to do? If not what were some of your aspirations and what drew you towards becoming a poet? Do you do anything else?

When I was a kid I just wanted to be a Spice Girl or do something that would get me an interview with Katie Couric. But I’ve always been writing & I didn’t think I would ever be a poetry. The reason I stick with it is because in poetry, every word matters. Everything is intentional & you have to savor it like you’re never going to have it again. I’ve always been fascinated by ---or perhaps haunted by -- the limits of language. With poetry you get to investigate all of the weird things you can make words do. You can make things like other things. You can make rockets come out of eyeballs. You can make people understand the most complicated feeling. When I’m not writing poems I’m teaching or writing little screenplays in my head between inanimate objects or having a crush on someone.

You're poems, at least the ones I've read (or seen on YouTube, actually) seem to have a lot to do with family and personal experience. If that where you tend to draw inspiration?

Oh, absolutely. I grew up in a household of bitchy Latina women and the knives they used to cut up vegetables with. Story-telling was a huge part of my upbringing. It was the way we unwound at the end of the day, the way we made each other laugh, the way we protected each other, the way we held each other close.

What is something you've learned from being a poet/writer?

I feel like I’ve always heard that being a better reader makes you a better writer. This isn’t not true, but I also want to point out how much being a listener has helped me be a better writer. Everyone can just like, pay attention more.

We are never really done growing up. What do you hope to do in the future?

Some dreams: I want to write a screenplay, be in a band (lol) & be able to pay for my parent’s dinners.

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What gets you out of bed in the morning?

My cat meowing, a good playlist, the concept of breakfast, fear of my own mortality.

Do you have any advice for girls growing up today?

If I could, I would make them a very heavily involved diagram and PowerPoint about why all of their feelings are valid. I don’t want to say to them, “One day you will know how beautiful and smart you are.” I want to say, “One day you will realize that the world is so big and completely withiin your grasp.”

Do you have any female figures that you look up to? (real or fiction)

FICTION: Maika Halfwolf in the graphic novel Monstress, Alma from a story of the same title in This is How you Lose Her.
REAL: My abuelita in her leapord-print blazer & floor-length floral dresses cinched at the waist with a belt.

I want to say, “One day you will realize that the world is so big and completely withiin your grasp.”

Why do you think it is important to tell our stories?

They keep us alive.

What is something in life that you are most proud of?

Right now, my chapbook. It just came out on Button Poetry. It’s called Peluda. It’s about hair removal, latina identity & the beauty business. You can get it here http://bit.ly/melissapeluda . Also, I finally perfected making an over-medium egg.

A few Favorites:

Book: No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Band/Song/Music Genre: Xenia Rubinos/ “Homemade Dynamite Remix” feat. SZA & Khalid/sad women who sound like they’re in space wearing sunglasses
Quote: “There is no such thing as a perfect ending. You just have to stand up and say, ‘I’m ready to leave.’” ~ Tommy Pico, Nature Poem

What is your life motto?

Pack an extra pair of underwear.