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Artist Spotlight

Artist Spotlight- Gabriella Detrick

By February 17, 2024No Comments

Passion is what guides many people through life. For multiracial poet Gabriella Detrick, this passion comes in the form of learning and writing. Inspired by her day-to-day life, Gabby’s writing is as poignant as it is steady.

Vegas-born, Gabby is a freshman at the University of Nevada-Reno studying political science. I met her one afternoon over coffee to learn more about her writing process and inspirations. When meeting her, I was a bit shocked (in a good way) at her poise and maturity. Most freshmen are still finding themselves, but Gabby is as quick as a flash and sharp as a tack.

“I’m very passionate about education,” Gabby said. “I’m definitely someone who’s had a lifelong passion for learning.”

Gabby thanks her elementary school teacher and mother, Mrs. Detrick, for instilling a love for learning in her. Mrs. Detrick has been a teacher for almost 30 years. She is the title figure in Gabby’s long form poem, “Mrs. Detrick,” where she recounts experiences her mom has had with students. Gabby’s mom teaches at a Title I school, meaning most of her students live at or below the poverty line.

Gabby is from Las Vegas, which the Clark County School District (CCSD) encloses. CCSD has been known nationally as one of the most convoluted public school districts in the country. CCSD is the fifth largest district in the nation; even during the 2020-2021 school year, the district had one of the highest suicide rates for students in the nation. Nevada legislators recently deferred a vote to allocate $58 million to the district because they weren’t able to bring forth a stable financial plan. 

In her poem “Mrs. Detrick,” Gabby describes the harrowing situations her mother has seen in CCSD. Students come to school with bruises and without jackets or food. Her mom drops food into students’ backpacks because she knows there isn’t any at home. Mrs. Detrick spends her paycheck on her children, but she doesn’t mean Gabby. Gabby ends the poem with the line, “She understood that in the black there was room for the color. In the darkness, there could be life.”

Gabby writes her poems quickly; in fact, she wrote “Mrs. Detrick” two hours before she performed it. She still edited and reviewed the poem, but managing to balance anecdotal themes with the national issues facing teachers is no easy task. However, Gabby handled it with grace and fairness. 

“It wasn’t a ‘by-the-fly’ type thing, and that was definitely kinda difficult,” Gabby says. “It was a little bit of a harder subject because it wasn’t completely anecdotal.”

The first poem she wrote for Poetry Night, though, was originally meant for something else. She wrote “I Am Learning” for the National Speech and Debate Association’s spoken word event. Gabby performed it at nationals and then slightly revised it for her poetry night performance. It was entirely memorized. The poem is about first love and being young in relation to that. Gabby weaves a beautiful narrative about love, strung along with the memory of a first date.

“I’ve always had stuff and enjoyed writing,” Gabby says with a smile. “I’ve always been a writer.”

Gabby’s poems cover a variety of topics. Another poem she wrote for Brushfire’s poetry night, entitled “Final Girl,” is about the sexism she faces in academic settings. The poem’s title serves as a double entendre, which she uses to compare herself to a typical horror movie’s ‘final girl.’ A final girl is a girl who survives, but not through her polite tone and kind manner.

“We have broken our glass ceilings and are using the shards as makeshift blades,” Gabby says about halfway through the poem. 

“Final Girl” was written the day before she performed it. Within the poem, she makes cheeky relations between her and the typical horror movie ‘final girl.’ The poem was inspired by a debate event Gabby competed in. She was ranked highly and respected by all the female judges, but the solo male judge deemed her “too emotional” and “overly passionate.”

Academically, Gabby is taking on everything she can. She is in the Honors College as well as routinely involved with ASUN as a Government Affairs intern. She is considering taking on journalism as a minor (something I must encourage). She is inspired by writers like Slavenka Drakulić, the esteemed author of How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed.

“I am very passionate about the idea of making change or helping people get in touch with resources they may need,” Gabby says when asked about her intern position. “I’ve been a part of some really wonderful projects with students and faculty alike.” She’s currently working with ASUN to establish better communication involving Title IX issues. 

Gabby is a force to be reckoned with. Her writing is intense and evocative; when she reads aloud, the room is constantly clapping. Her poems leave listeners with a sense of sincerity and sophistication that lingers far beyond Poetry Night.

 

Gabby performs at Brushfire’s Poetry Night regularly (every first Tuesday of the month at Laughing Planet at 7 pm). You can find recordings of her performances here

 

Gabby can be found on Instagram @gabbydetrick_ and Twitter @DetrickGabby.