Sophomore Livia Bolster finds passion in poetry, writing


Connie Erdozain

Bolster holds “The Albatross” by Kate Bass and “I am Offering This Poem” by Jimmy Santiago Baca, two poems she recited for the regional Poetry Out Loud competition.

Connie Erdozain

Sophomore Livia Bolster is a student of many talents. From poetry to acting to dramatic interpretation, Bolster takes part in competitions and plays, and her talent is noticeable to many who know her.

Bolster has grown a profound connection with poetry and its complexity and depth of meaning.

“I think it’s just a really pretty way of expression,” Bolster said. “I feel like it’s so much deeper than it looks on the page, which is the same way with books. One line will have so many different meanings behind it that the author [intends], but also, all the readers can interpret it in their own way. The same poem can mean a different thing to multiple different people, which I think is cool.”

Poetry has become a foundational aspect of Bolster’s life, as it has helped her pave the way through personal struggles.

“It’s a really good way to work through the things that you’re thinking about,” Bolster said. “And once you write it down, you’re like, ‘oh, I was thinking that all along, but I didn’t really realize that until I put it on paper.’”

For as long as she can remember, poetry has been an important part of Bolster’s life. Her grandmother Riki Bolster, a former Grady journalism teacher and adviser for the Southerner, motivated her to write poetry from a very young age.

“My grandma would give me little writing prompts when I was really young to write poetry,” Livia Bolster said. “And of course, the stuff I wrote wasn’t very good, but I probably got into it more so in the fifth grade.”

Riki Bolster provided various activities for Livia during the summer to encourage her writing, including her “Omom” camp. Omom comes from “omam,” a Latvian word for grandmother.

“In the summertime, I take the grandkids for a week,” Riki Bolster said. “They’d come every morning, and we’d do activities. I always made sure that one of the activities was writing.”

After retiring, Riki Bolster managed the writing center at Grady, where she often brought Livia with her to learn more about writing. At the writing center, Livia was immersed in playwriting activities. 

“Because I was in charge of it, Livia got to sit in on those things,” Riki Bolster said. “She learned a lot about how you write and what kind of words make something come alive.”

Rita Bolster’s workshop enabled Livia Bolster to get involved in writing plays, which enhanced her interest in acting and performing.

“I thought the whole experience was great,” Riki Bolster said. “She wrote several plays. I remember one of them that got performed by professional actors. She was spot on in terms of depicting the characters and what they would say, and I think part of the playwriting workshops makes you listen to what other people are saying and how they’re saying it. But that is also important in writing poetry.”

Livia Bolster said that the workshop provided her with insight into what performances look like behind the scenes, along with skills she could take away to strengthen her writing.

“The writer’s workshop, first of all, prepared me for what the whole process was like: writing, directing, and acting,” Livia Bolster said. “It also helped to give a very good view of how to build character and internal, as well as external conflict, which I feel is very important for both acting and writing,” 

Over time, Bolster’s poetry and writing blossomed. Bolster won Midtown’s school-wide 2023 Poetry Out Loud competition and will advance to the regional Poetry Out Loud competition. Poetry Out Loud is a nationwide competition in which high school students memorize and recite poems.

“I was excited, but it was also surprising because I wasn’t really expecting to win,” Bolster said. “I didn’t really tell anybody I was doing it, but when my friends and my mom found out I won, they were really excited.”

Bolster’s use of poetry applies to many of her passions.

“[Poetry is] building a world, and it’s building a character, and that’s really important when you’re looking at dancing and acting, and theater and that it all kind of ties into each other,” Bolster said. “I think a lot of people that are into acting and stuff are also into writing because it’s building a character.”

Aside from poetry, Bolster developed an interest in dramatic interpretation, which is a category of the National Speech and Debate Association.

“It’s basically just taking a piece of writing and then presenting it in front of a lot of people in your interpretation of it,” Bolster said. “It can either be a monologue, and there’s a specific one that’s poetry.”

Mario Herrera, Bolster’s Speech and Forensics teacher, has pushed her to do dramatic interpretation. 

“I think that it will help her with what she wants to pursue,” Hererra said. “I think she has a natural kind of theater talent. There’s a depth to her that is obvious; so, I just want to encourage her to explore that and see what happens.”

Herrera has noticed an improvement in different areas of public speaking for Bolster and acknowledges her involvement in the activities she enjoys.

“It’s important for students to get involved with interpretation, debate, and theater if that’s where their interests are,” Herrera said. “Bottom line is, I think everyone needs to be involved in anything that interests them. I think that Livia is already kind of doing that, and I’m hoping that she expands that.”