Armpit hair! Armpit hair! (I like it)/ Armpit hair! Armpit hair! (spike it, spike it!), the spoken-word artist shouts on her piece "Mammally Factual." On "Dear Mr. President," she spits, I'd give the U.S. a bad rap/I'd kiss every fine Iraqi dyke on the front line/Fuck national pride/I'd go to their side. No, she doesn't mince words -- instead, she sets them on fire and lobs them like grenades from the stage. Unapologetic, fiery, funny, and smart, she's Eminem from the queer side of the tracks. This is why she's been summoned to perform in Rotterdam, Portugal, and London; why Ms. Magazine put her on its cover and Howard Zinn called her "extraordinary"; why Russell Simmons invited her on HBO's Def Poetry Jam -- twice.
When Olson calls us from the road (specifically, "a big red van with a lot of bumper stickers" that she drives herself while touring 150 days a year), she's friendly and -- for a woman who rhymes, Call 1-800-I don't care about shit/or www. fuck all of it! -- surprisingly conflicted. "When I named my tour 'Down with Bush/Left with Kerry,' I meant that when Bush is out, we'll push Kerry to the left, make sure he's radicalized," says the registered Democrat. "But it's like, we'll also be left with Kerry" -- a.k.a., another rich, white male from the patriarchy.
In her published work, Olson comes off as hard-core, straight-up -- even, some would say, vulgar. (I revitalized vagina's grace/I discovered vagina's taste/I became a fine diner/Put my face in vagina after vagina). But riffing on her online tour diary, the Wesleyan grad sounds like friggin' Aristotle: "What is the category of 'womyn' if not simply the mass political/sociological group identification result of past and present enforced biological determinism regarding vaginaism?" As for spelling womyn with a y instead of an e, she can sometimes "start to think that's really dorky. But then, the more we can reclaim, the better."
Aware that her work often presents more questions than answers, she says her mission is "to engage people... to restore warmth and connectivity to art and to audiences." But even finding her audience presents a personal struggle. Criticized for preaching to the choir, she admits: "That's one of my biggest conflicts. How can I reach out to a bigger audience and maintain the integrity of my politics?" She'd welcome more challengers, more conservatives, and more males in the crowd -- but, oh yeah, she did tell all the boys and the men/...with the ape-like backs/and the very hairy asses to get your opinion out of my hairy pitty. Uh, that's just her funny way of saying, "Welcome!" -- Deirdra Funcheon
Alix Olson performs at ArtServe (1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) with opening act Amy Steinberg. Tickets cost $10, and doors open at 8 p.m. Call 954-462-9191.