Alix Olson

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Not to be confused with Alex Olsen.
Alix Olson
Alix-olson-on-mic.jpg
Born 1975
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Occupation Spoken word poet

Alix L. Olson (born 1975 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania[1]) is an American poet who works exclusively in spoken word. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 1997 and uses her work to address issues of capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, heterosexism, misogyny, and patriarchy. She identifies as a queer feminist.[2]

Early Years[edit]

Alix Olson's parents were both politically-minded professors, ideals she believed were passed along to her, as she recalls some of her earliest memories involving sitting under a table coloring protest signs.[2]

Career[edit]

In 1997, Olson began performing at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, where she quickly made the 1998 Nuyorican Poetry Slam team. She and her fellow Nuyorican team members Lynne Procope, Steve Colman and Guy LeCharles Gonzalez would go on to win the 1998 National Poetry Slam Championship in Austin, TX.[3] This championship would lead to Soft Skull Press publishing the anthology Burning Down the House which showcased poetry by Olson, Procope, Coleman and Gonzalez as well as poetry by the 1998 Nuyorican Team's coach, Roger Bonair-Agard.[4] In 1999 Alix Olson beat Stacey Ann Chin in a slam off giving her the title of the OUTWRITE slam champion.[5]

Olson went on to record and publish three spoken word CDs Built Like That (2001), Independence Meal (2004) and Protagonist (2014). Olson was the subject of the documentary Left Lane: On the Road with Folk Poet Alix Olson, which was released in 2005 and directed by Samantha Farinella.[6] "Making cameos on the DVD are Holly Near and Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls and Patricia Ireland, the former director of the National Organization for Women."[7] On June 11, 2006, Alix Olson co-hosted the Sixth Annual Outmusic Awards with Ari Gold (musician), at the Knitting Factory in Rochester, New York.[8] She is also the editor of the spoken word anthology, Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution with a foreword by Eve Ensler.[9] This collection of essays and poetry was published by Seal Press in 2007 and features work from artists such as Patricia Smith, Eileen Myles, Sarah Jones, Suheir Hammad, Staceyann Chin, Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, Lynn Breedlove and Michelle Tea.[9] Additionally, Alix Olson's poem "Warrior" is referenced in the book Fight like a Girl: How to be a Fearless Feminist by Megan Seely.[10]

On July 8, 2014, blogger Justyn Hintze wrote about the Apple Inc engraving service, which seemed to be exhibiting sexist programming.[11] According to Hintze this came to her attention on attempting to engrave her new shiny iDevice with an Alix Olson lyric "I’ll give myself a lube job, shake my broomstick 'til my clit throbs," a lyric which she describes as "feminist, sex-positive, and it makes me smile. Every. single. time." The blog and subsequent campaign on Twitter - #MyClitMyChoice - has garnered international media attention.[12][13][14][15]

Alix Olson's work "has been featured on a variety of NPR programs, HBO's Def Poetry Jam, Air America with Rachel Maddow, in the New York Times, Washington Post, Curve Magazine,"[16] as well as "Girlfriends Magazine, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Lesbian Review of Books. She has also made appearances on the covers of Lambda Book Report, Lavender Lens, Velvet Park magazine"[17] and Ms. Magazine.[18] Alix has appeared on the nationally syndicated Air America's "Unfiltered" radio (co-hosts Rachel Maddow, Rachel Winstead, and Chuck D), as well as on Oxygen television, CNN, HBO, In the Life, WXPN's World Cafe with David Dye, and local radio stations around the country."[17] Additionally, she "has headlined national conferences for the National Organization for Women, GenderPac, and the Lesbian Summit. Most recently, Alix performed for one million people at the Washington, D.C. March for Women's Lives. She has headlined international poetry festivals in Portugal, the Netherlands, England and Australia."[17]

Education[edit]

Alix Olson attended Stockholm University in 1996, received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 2007 and is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in Political Science at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, with a Graduate certificate in Advanced Feminist Studies.[16] "Her dissertation project, drawing from queer, feminist and democratic theory, thinks about the ways that discourses of im/maturity govern scenes of political action."[16]

Alix Olson has served as "a Graduate Teaching Assistant at the University of Massachusetts at Amhearst from 2009-present, for Introduction to Political Theory under Professor Barbara Cruikshank in Fall 2009, 2011 and 2012, for Introduction to American Politics under Professor Tatishe Nteta during Spring 2012, American Political Thought under Professor Dean Robinson in Spring 2011 and Controversies in U.S. Public Policy under Professor John Hird in Fall 2010."[16] As a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Alix Olson has also "designed and taught her own courses including "Art and Politics" and "The Feminist Art(s) of Politics.""[16]

Alix Olson also taught as "Faculty at the Juniper Institute for Young Writers at University of Massachusetts at Amherst in Summer 2011 and 2012, Faculty at CSU Summer Arts, California State University, Fresno, CA in July 2008 and an Instructor at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val Kill’s Young Women’s Leadership, global political leadership workshops in Hyde Park, NY in July, 2007 and August 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012."[16]

Critical Analysis[edit]

bell hooks has described Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press, 2007) of which Olson is the editor, as "daring to be heard.. to resurrect you."[16]

Historian and activist Howard Zinn has called Alix "an ingenious poet, a brilliant performer, a funny person, a serious thinker. Quite simply, extraordinary."[17]

A critique in Utne Magazine's website calls Olson "...the spoken word diva everyone's talking about."[17]

In describing her live performances, The Progressive Magazine calls Alix "an electrifying performer who seduces the audience with wit and energy, spinning tales of life on the road between her fiery poems. A sharpshooter with theatrical flair, Olson oozes both love and rage." Progressive Magazine has also referenced Alix Olson as a "word warrior." [17]

Ms. Magazine has described Alix Olson as a "road-poet-on-a-mission."[17]

Books[edit]

  • Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution, Seal Press, 2007.[16]
  • Burning Down the House, Soft Skull Press, 2003.[16]

Awards, Honors and Recognitions[edit]

  • 1998: National Nuyorican Poetry Slam Championship (Austin, TX).[16]
  • 1999: OUTWRITE slam champion.[16]
  • 2000: Awarded a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship.[16]
  • 2002: Was a triple nominee for the category of "Outstanding Artist-Activist" for the OUTMusic Awards.[17]
  • 2003: Received Washington DC's Rape Crisis "Visionary Award" (along with Margaret Cho and Nobuko Oyabu).[17]
  • 2004: Voted "Best Activist" (along with MoveOn) as part of Venus Magazine's "Hott List" and OutMusician of the Year by OutMusic for Excellence in artistic expression and LGBT community activism.[17]
  • 2011: Received a Political Science Travel Grant from the University of Massachusetts at Amhearst.[16]
  • 2012: Received a Research Assistantship as part of the Graduate Research Initiative Program (GRIP) and University of Massachusetts-Amherst's "Student Choice Teaching Award."[16]
  • 2013: Received Center for Research on Families Fellowship and Distinguished Teaching Award (University of Massachusetts Amherst).[16]
  • 2016: Awarded the New Political Science Christian Bay Award.[16]
  • Alix Olson has also been awarded the Barbara Deming Award and was offered a Hedgebrook Fellowship, which she declined.[16]

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mind TV site: "Alix Olson / Wholly Human"". [dead link]
  2. ^ a b DiNovella, Elizabeth (October 2003), "Alix Olson: Word Warrior", The Progressive, retrieved 2008-02-19 
  3. ^ Aptowicz, Cristin O'Keefe. (2008). Words in Your Face: A Guided Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam. New York City: Soft Skull Press. "Chapter 19: And Two Become Three; Mouth Almighy Becomes NYC-Urbana and Nuyo's Championship Team Becomes louderARTS" ISBN 1-933368-82-9.
  4. ^ "''Burning Down the House'' Amazon site". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-12-04. 
  5. ^ Driver, Susan (2008). Queer Youth Cultures. State University of New York Press. ISBN 9780791473375. 
  6. ^ "Left Lane: On the Road with Folk Poet Alix Olson | Alix Olson - spoken word artist". www.alixolson.com. Retrieved 2016-01-28. 
  7. ^ Bagby, Dyana (2005). "Word Warriors". Washington Blade. 
  8. ^ "Outmusic Awards To Be Presented June 11 at NYC's Knitting Factory". Empty Closet. 2006. 
  9. ^ a b Olson, Alix, ed. (2007). Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press. ISBN 9781580052214. 
  10. ^ Seely, Megan (2007). Fight Like a Girl: How to be a Fearless Feminist. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0814740022. 
  11. ^ "Apple: Return of the Sexism?". Justyn Hintze. 
  12. ^ "'Apple is TERRIFIED of women’s bodies and women’s pleasure' – fresh tech sex storm". The Register. 
  13. ^ "Apple: my vagina is just as appropriate as a penis, ok?". The Telegraph (UK). 
  14. ^ "Apple Will Engrave 'Penis' on Your iPad but Not 'Vagina' or 'Clit'". Jezebel. 
  15. ^ "Apple frowns on vagina, but loves penis". South Africa Times. 
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Programs in Political Science and Legal Studies". University of Massachusetts at Amherst Department of Political Science. 2016. Retrieved March 27, 2016. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "V-Day". Alix Olson. 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2016. 
  18. ^ Gemell, Zoe (2002). "Slamming her way into our heads". Bay Windows.