... like a steadily flowing river...

A Conversation with
POETRY Contributor
Ollie Vickers

by Jennifer Fossenbell

Ollie Vickers, Western Academy of Beijing

Ollie Vickers, Western Academy of Beijing

BYLR: How long have you been 'on the map' in Beijing? What is your favorite spot to spend time here?

Ollie Vickers: Ever since I came to Beijing, my family made an effort to go out and see different parts of the city. While I usually like to spend time alone, I also love being surrounded by old buildings or art in places like 798.

BYLR: And on the flip side, what place(s) do you miss most outside of Beijing?

OV: Beijing is such a vibrant and busy city, but I'm very much a fan of quiet, isolated places, especially the mountains around my grandmother's house in France or the broad beaches where my Australian family lives.

BYLR: How would you describe the art scene in Beijing today, based on your experiences? Do you have a favorite gallery in the 798 Zone, or a favorite style of art you've seen there?

OV: Coming to Beijing introduced the art scene to me and I've seen some really great stuff. If I could describe the art scene, I'd say it was innovative. Maybe that's sounds too broad, but I've seen some really interesting ideas, especially art that involves the integration between different cultures. That's art that really interests me.

BYLR: Who are your literary inspirations? When did you first begin to think you might like to write creatively? Do you think of yourself as a writer?

OV: I usually like looking at the broad array of writing styles of many different writers, so I really could say who has been a greater inspiration. In terms of writing creatively, I never really thought of myself as a writer, so I can't say when I first decided to give it a try. I do know that I have a great respect for language, so when I do writing, I do it in appreciation of language and writers.

BYLR: Can you name a book or author you've read that inspired this respect for language and writing? Are there any particular poets that you admire?

OV: An author that I admire a lot is Terry Pratchett, whose satirical writing really made me feel engaged in reading, but in terms of really respecting language, I owe a lot of that to my old English teacher Daniel Johnson. Ever since studying with him, I've always tried to look at language differently and it's been an amazing experience. In terms of poetry, I loved Shel Silverstein when I was very young and reading his poetry drove me to write some of my own back then.

BYLR: Say something about your 'writing life.' Do you have any particular habits or preferences?

OV: About half of my writing may happen before I go to sleep in bed. Lying in silence, ideas appear in my head that I just really need to put into words somehow. The other half of the time, I am reviewing what I have written on a bus or that "dead time" in our day. Often we say that we are so busy we can hardly finish all of the work we need to get done, but this "dead time" that we usually wouldn't spend doing anything is a great time to isolate myself from everything else and focus solely on the writing.

BYLR: Turning to your poem “Blood,” say a little bit about what sparked you to write this beautiful poem.

When I was thinking about the theme of maps, I tried to think about how a person could be “mapped” - what points of me do people plot on their own maps? I felt that as a young person, life is moving so fast around you like a steadily flowing river and there is a need for direction, clarity and a sense of purpose. When I figured that I’d found purpose, I wrote “Blood.”

BYLR: It's really a wonderful poem. What was your writing and revision process like?

OV: I first jotted down some ideas and then spent about a month revising constantly. For this phase I have to thank my friend Taissia [Yanishevskaya]- who is also a contributor - for helping me with my writing.

BYLR: And have you had your creative writing published before?

OV: No, this is the first time I've had any work published, so it's a really exciting opportunity that allows me to look back at my work as one of the things I'm most proud of.

BYLR: Earlier you mentioned a writing camp that you did back in Australia. Say something about that experience.

OV: My school would do a four-day-long writing camp in the bush where we would do several amazing workshops. They gave us a chance to learn some writing techniques and just share some of our work with others. That camp is one of my fondest memories, for the whole experience and how amazing it was to go away from everywhere else and just write.

BYLR: I see this great photo of you singing in choir. Do you have any other artistic or creative pursuits?

OV: I really love music, theatre and musical theatre so I'm working on composition and writing in hopes of writing my own musical. I also really love singing solo or in choir. I suppose as well as writing, I really love performing. It's a big part of who I am and it really makes me feel full of energy. It's something that inspires me a lot in most everything I do.

BYLR: What are your plans for the future? What are your dreams?

OV: My plans in the future are to pursue acting as a career and my dream is to be on Broadway, although that seems so distant to me.


Ollie Vickers also has a passion for music; he's pictured here singing in choir and hopes to one day write his own musical.

Ollie Vickers also has a passion for music; he's pictured here singing in choir and hopes to one day write his own musical.

BYLR Issue 1 "Maps"

BYLR: And to end back on our theme of maps, here's a tricky one... If you were your own country, what would you be called, and what shape would you take? What would your capital be called?

OV: If I was a country, I would be the country of Victoria (named after queen Victoria, and for the reason that my last name is similar and it has a certain grace to it). This would be an island nation, like the British isles but with a warmer climate. The capital city would be called Kathsdam, and would have an amazing art and writing scene.

BYLR: Perhaps you'll start the Kathsdam Youth Literary Review there! Thanks for talking with us and best of luck to you in your pursuits, Ollie.

- Interview over email, April 19-23, 2017