Andrea Gibson is a poet-provocateur extraordinaire, a speaker of truths that aren’t always gentle or easy to swallow. The spoken word artist touches on everything across the spectrum from gender and race, to privilege and class, to war and love. She was the the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam and has appeared on C-SPAN, Free Speech TV, BBC, and Air America, as well as performing across numerous campuses across the United States. She’s just released her newest album, FLOWER BOY, half rally cry and half rebirth, speaking truth to power of just how personal the political can be.
Persephone Magazine, please welcome Andrea Gibson.
Persephone Magazine: How and when did you first start writing poetry and doing spoken word?
Andrea Gibson: I have written poetry since I was quite young. I discovered spoken word after college when I moved to Colorado. Denver had just started a weekly poetry slam and the community quickly felt like home. I performed in local and national poetry slam competitions for about five years and then started doing poetry outside of the slam setting as well.
PM: Your poems are this mix of being simultaneously brutal and vulnerable,
walking that fine line of the personal and the political. How do you see poetry as a vehicle for change, as well as your own work in that?
AG: The spoken word movement is very tightly intertwined with many social justice movements. I find art in general imperative to creating a better world because art does not attempt to change
people’s minds. It instead attempts to change people’s hearts. And hearts are more likely to act.
PM: One of the many positives of speaking truth to power is that it shows
folks that, “Oh damn, we aren’t nuts.” How have the responses to your own work been? Have you ever had any challenges on how people receive your work?
AG: Yes, of course. When the feedback is coming from a truly caring source though, I really appreciate it. If it’s a voice of compassion in the form of a request that I be more sensitive to a
particular issues or maybe even speak about it differently within the poem I really open up and try to listen. I’ve changed lines in many of my poems because of feedback from people and I’ve learned a lot about collective consciousness through that process. As for the people who write with a message of hate (as you can imagine), I just toss those in the hate garbage.
PM: Did you ever have a point where you thought to yourself, “Yeah, this is what I am going to do for real”? What was the process of becoming a full time writer/activist/ poet?
AG: I feel so grateful to the poetry slam scene for really nurturing and encouraging my writing. I
had so much to learn, and still today have so much to learn in the realm of spoken word. Having that community of amazing writers around me was and is the pull to keep at it. In 2005, I lucked out when my current manager Christen Greene, who otherwise only manages musicians, took a risk and started working with me. With her help, I was able to get the word out about my work and from there started doing a lot of touring from. But to answer your question, no one ever told me I’d grow up to be a poet, and no I never imagined that was possible until it was actually happening.
PM: You just released FLOWER BOY, which is your fifth full-length album. What was the process of creating the album like? So much of it comes off as a sort of rebirth, so I’m curious to know what were you thinking about when you were creating it.
AG: Ah, I love that you said the word rebirth, because that is in many ways exactly what FLOWER BOY is to me. I was coming out of one of the most difficult years of my life when I was recording it and finishing the last writings…and I really had a stomach full of bloom through the whole process. I was really waking up to gratitude and beginning to let that gratitude be a part of my daily world. Making the album felt like a deep exhale.
PM: Most of your performances take place at universities. Is there any one element about performing in front of people who are just kind of beginning to feel out how they are going to work within the world?
AG: The students who come to my university shows are typically electric with possibility. They are full with new fire and it’s the most hopeful kind of glow. It’s one of the most amazing energies to be around.
PM: What amazing work can we look forward from you in the future?
AG: Currently I am working on an hour long poem that I hope to be its own show at some point. It is called, “Said the Wishing Well to God on a Quiet Night while the People Slept.” Other than that, I will continue to be make poems, hopefully doing some collective work with other writers and musicians, and continue to challenge myself to “write what I’m afraid to write.”