This week, justArts spoke with Olivia Nichols ’20 who is a member of Poetic Justice and a prominent poet on campus. 

justArts: Can you give me some background on your poetry? 

Olivia Nichols: I started writing poetry once I came to Brandeis last year and discovered various coffeehouses that were going on, which I wanted to participate in. I had never seriously considered self-expression through writing before then, but now it is one of the forms of expression that I value the most. I write about the parts of myself that I am still growing into, and I write to preserve memories of those who are most important to me. 

JA: What do you do on campus related to poetry?

ON: I am a member of Poetic Justice, the University’s slam team, so I perform slam poetry with the team. I also enjoy signing up to perform at coffeehouse events around campus like those hosted by Jaded and Vietnamese Student Association. 

JA: Can you give background on Poetic Justice? 

ON: Poetic Justice was formed at the beginning of last semester through an open poetry slam. For the past few years prior to last year, there had been no slam team at Brandeis, so the formation of Poetic Justice was the revival of having a slam team to represent our University. Currently, the team consists of five members: Nia Duncan ’20, Liv Perozo ’20, Jack Rubinstein ’20, Victoria Richardson ’20, and myself. [Dean of Students] Jamele Adams helps guide us as our coach.  

JA:What was it like going to Chicago last Spring with Poetic Justice?

ON: Last spring, we were fortunate enough to compete at College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, which is a national poetry slam invitational. With three of our five members completely new to slam and due to the national scale of the tournament, we were all very nervous. Despite the nerves, it was beyond inspirational to witness so many talented poets performing and the entire experience really brought the team closer together. 

JA: What is advice you can give on writing poetry?

ON: When I want to write a piece, I get it down on paper first before turning to a computer, because it forces you to be more deliberate with the words that you choose. Then by working on it, you can actually physically see the changes that you make as your piece forms. 

JA: What are exciting poetry-related events on campus we can look forward to?

ON: One very exciting thing is that Poetic Justice has started hosting a weekly poetry night at the Stein every Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m. These nights will have an open-mic portion and end with an opportunity to compete in a slam. Open to anyone and everyone, we hope that this weekly series will help foster a poetry community here and that it will provide a space and time for students to express themselves through their creative work. 

JA: Anything else you want to mention that hasn’t been covered?

ON: Just that I am extremely appreciative of all those who continue to do emotional labor through such mediums as poetry and writing, because it connects people in a time when one can feel so disconnected.

—Hannah Kressel