Andrea Gibson is a spoken word poet and activist, currently residing in Boulder, Colorado. Their poems cover topics from queer rights to war to rape to feminism to politics and more. The level of intensity and emotion they bring to their poems are enough to rock you to your core.
They are an author of three poetry books and six poetry albums. Their work has inspired me and moved me over the years, so when I heard they will be performing in Winnipeg on June 27 on their North American tour, I was privileged enough to get to ask them some questions through an email interview.
What is the first poem you ever wrote and what did it mean to you?
When I was very young I wrote a poem about my dog Tweedle Dee Boo Boo Gibson. It meant I loved her like crazy and always would.
In some of your work, it seems like you and your parents don’t see eye to eye. Has your relationship gotten better or worse over the years?
Our politics are very different and our world views are significantly different, but our hearts have a lot in common and we’ve all done a lot of work over the years to understand each other so yes, our relationship has improved.
What do you do in regards to activism?
The most current project I am working on is Stay Here With Me, which is an online website and community working to prevent suicide. My political heart was raised by Vox Feminista, a group of radical artists in Colorado. Every artistic endeavor we undertook was done in collaboration with a political action, i.e., protesting the circus, picketing outside of Lockheed Martin, doing political theater to shine light on the monster that is Monsanto, anti-war protests, marching with unionizing janitors through the streets of Denver. Vox instilled in me the idea that art is so, so much, but it is not enough on its own.
The tour you are on is quite big; do you ever get tired of performing the same poems? Or do you have a different list of poems for each venue?
I tap into which poems I can read authentically each night. I typically don’t decide on a set list until I am on stage and can sense into my own energy and emotional being. Sometimes the poems that feel most honest for me to read are a decade old. Sometimes they have just been written.
“The Pursuit of Happiness” is an intense poem about war and religion and it’s one of the first poems I’ve ever heard from you. It’s six years later now. Do you still feel like this poem is relevant in today’s society?
Yes, it’s unfortunately still relevant. I wish it wasn’t. It’s a strange thing to write so many poems you wish the world had no use for.
“Thank Goodness” is absolutely brilliant. I love the intertwined relationship between God and humans. What inspired you to write this?
It was inspired by my own unpacking of the word “holy” and what that means to me. Thank Goodness is a reclaiming of my spirituality and a love poem to the holiness in all of us.
“Asking Too Much” reminds me of my relationship and how we can talk about anything and question each other. Did you write this poem based on a lover or is this how you envision feeling when you meet someone you could potentially fall in love with?
I wrote it so long ago I honestly do not remember if it was written for a specific person or not, but now it resonates in me as something that would be relevant to every love.
You were the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam. What was it like to win such an amazing competition? And which poem(s) did you perform?
I remember I performed FOR ELI, BIRTHDAY, WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, PRISON INDUSTRIAL on finals stage. It was a thrill to be part of that event. It was one of the best experiences of my life. So many incredible poets lifting each other’s voices. It was beautiful.
You’ve just written your third poetry book, Pansy. In you’re spoken word of Pansies you say “You called me pretty and I didn’t flinch / I knew I could still be your boyfriend and tell you/ my grandmother sewed my prom dress stitch by stitch with her own hands.” Do you have any advice for people in relationships that are questioning their gender and way they want to identify?
It’s helped me most to speak as honestly as I possibly can, and to recognize my truth may change from day to day, and to commit to expressing that truth to the people I love.
Danelle Granger is an aspiring journalist with a passion for feminist and queer issues.