[Episode 5] “Of Dawn of Man” by Max Ritvo and “Albatross” by Kate Bass with Gavin Kimmel


Meagan: Hi, this is Meagan with the Poetry podcast. Could you please state your name, your grade, and your pronouns.

Gavin: Gavin Kimmel, 11th grade, he/him/his.

Meagan: Awesome will you please recite your poem for us.

Gavin: Okay, so the first one is “Dawn Of Man” by Max Ritvo:

After the cocoon I was in a human body

instead of a butterfly’s. All along my back


there was great pain — I groped to my feet

where I felt wings behind me, trying


to tilt me back. They succeeded in doing so

after a day of exertion. I called that time,


overwhelmed with the ghosts of my wings, sleep.

My thoughts remained those of a caterpillar —


I took pleasure in climbing trees. I snuck food

into all my pains. My mouth produced language


which I attempted to spin over myself

and rip through happier and healthier.


I’d do this every few minutes. I’d think to myself

What made me such a failure?


It’s all a little touchingly pathetic. To live like this,

a grown creature telling ghost stories,


staring at pictures, paralyzed for hours.

And even over dinner or in bed —


still hearing the stories, seeing the pictures —

an undertow sucking me back into myself.


I’m told to set myself goals. But my mind

doesn’t work that way. I, instead, have wishes


for myself. Wishes aren’t afraid

to take on their own color and life —


like a boy who takes a razor from a high cabinet

puffs out his cheeks and strips them bloody.


Gavin: And then the next poem is “The Albatross” by Kate Bass:


When I know you are coming home

I put on this necklace:

glass beads on a silken thread,

a blue that used to match my eyes.

I like to think I am remembering you.

I like to think you don’t forget.


The necklace lies heavy on my skin,

it clatters when I reach down

to lift my screaming child.

I swing her, roll her in my arms until she forgets.

The beads glitter in the flicker of a TV set

as I sit her on my lap

and wish away the afternoon.


I wait until I hear a gate latch lift

the turn of key in lock.

I sit amongst toys and unwashed clothes,

I sit and she fingers the beads until you speak

in a voice that no longer seems familiar, only strange.

I turn as our child tugs at the string.

I hear a snap and a sound like falling rain.


Meagan: Those are gorgeous. That’s awesome. So what made you choose those poems? This is for your poetry out loud competition, right?

Gavin: Yes it is, and then I have a third poem as well that’s pre-twentieth century that I find to be a little bit more boring, but I don’t know. I really like the language of both of those poems. I think that they have like a solemn undertone but you’re still able to play them in a way that there are lines that can be played, or that I choose to play in a more funny or like light-hearted way, I think. Yeah, I was just trying to them by the way that they read and I think when I first looked at them, I wasn’t thinking about like what they meant necessarily but more of like how I like the language and thought it would be interesting to do.

Meagan: What do you think is like your favorite part of both of them or maybe just one?

Gavin:  I like, I think, my favorite part to read is of “Of Dawn of Man” is the last line the “Like a boy who takes a razor from a high cabinet, puffs out his cheeks and strips them bloody.” It’s not my favorite line to perform though because I feel like such a heavy weight and a poem and there’s so many different ways that it can be interpreted that I feel like I don’t do it justice in the way that I feel like nobody could do it justice which is kind of the difficulty with Poetry Out Loud because they’re just some poems that are better to be read and not spoken and so finding how to speak it is difficult.

Meagan: How do you feel like you can prepare for like the performing aspect of a poem?

Gavin: I feel like walking through, I mean making sure you understand the poem and it doesn’t have to be like the correct understanding so to speak as long as it’s your understanding and just like knowing what you’re saying what the words mean and then finding ways to transfer that understanding into your acting.

Meagan: Cool. So your competition is next week, right? So are you excited for that? How do you think you’re going to do? How are you preparing?

Gavin: I am excited for it. The thing is, is that this year, I feel like I haven’t put that much pressure on myself as I did last year. And Annika who I’m going to state with made an interesting point, which is that with poetry, you don’t want to overdo the performance because then it’s less genuine and you’re not thinking about what comes next what you’re saying in the moment. It’s more like a recitation than it is a performance, which I think was kind of holding me back last year that I practiced so much that it just kind of like got to be like the same monotonous thing. So for practicing, I’m really just – I mean practicing the words and making sure I have the words correct cause if you don’t have like perfect accuracy, you can get a lot of points off but that doesn’t necessarily involve putting like heart into it. It’s just like saying the words and then I’ll probably only practice like once or twice how I’m actually going to perform it just so that it’s more genuine at the actual competition.

Meagan: Cool. What would you say to people who are thinking about doing poetry out loud?

Gavin: I say just do it, like it’s so much fun and it’s such a genuine and like welcoming community. And even if you’re trying to do it to like advance to higher-level, I think, don’t be too hard broken or anything if you don’t advance just because it’s still a great opportunity to like practice speaking in front of people along with practice you read and you discuss poetry and it’s it’s a lot of fun and it’s a good community and then seeing other people performance really cool as well.

Meagan: Awesome. Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Gavin: I don’t think so.

Meagan: Well thank you so much.

Gavin: Yes, of course.