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Spoken-word artist, poet performs in Distler

Published: Thursday, February 13, 2014

Updated: Saturday, February 15, 2014 20:02

Andrea Gibson, a well-known activist, poet and spoken-word artist, performed in the Distler Performance Hall last night in an event sponsored by the Queer Straight Alliance.

Gibson’s poems focused on tough subjects such as sexuality, war, class and gender. During the performance, background music accompanied many of her poems to enhance the atmosphere of her reading. When she recited, “Crab Apple Pirates,” a gentle acoustic guitar was played. Gibson said that this music, like the poem itself, was inspired by the small town in the woods of northern Maine where she grew up.

“It’s like sitting on your back porch,” she said of the music. “You can even hear the crickets.”

Gibson followed this calm opening number with a far more vigorous poem, entitled “I Sing The Body Electric, Especially When My Power’s Out,” which she described as “a love poem I wrote about my body.”

“I wrote it on one of the hardest days of my life,” she said. “I wanted to lift myself out of the shame I’d been living in my whole life. I wanted to be an ally to my body.”

She then read aloud an older poem, called “For Eli,” which she wrote after her friend, Elijah, was deployed in the Iraq War.

“He had everyone there call him Eli, so that he could separate into two people,” she said. “The one that was going to war, and the one that would hopefully return home.”

“For Eli” addresses the horrors of war that soldiers often witness, as well as the difficulty they have reintegrating into society upon their return home. Gibson ends the poem by asking, “You wanna support our troops? Bring them home and hold them tight when we get here.”

Gibson then performed an even older poem, entitled “A Letter to the Playground Bully, From Andrea, Age 8 1/2.” This was an especially personal piece inspired by her playground experiences as a child, when she was often teased for dressing in male clothes.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could all hang out together for one night at age 8 1/2?” she asked. “Life would be so much better. I used to teach in a preschool and [a] kindergarten, and [those young children] are just amazing. They’re so much of an inspiration that when I stopped teaching to do poetry full-time, I didn’t have anything to write about. I didn’t write about anything for a year.”

Gibson followed with a far more recent poem, entitled “July 13, 2013,” which she wrote this past summer only a few hours after the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial had been announced.

“I don’t know what makes us human more than our crimes,” she recited from the poem. “That just breaks my heart.”

Gibson then performed a series of more lighthearted poems, including one with references to Jesus Christ and Satan, which she said got her in trouble when she performed it at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She concluded her performance with a pair of short love poems and then thanked the crowd for their attendance.

“This is probably the queerest set I have ever done in my life,” she said. “There are other things I think about on occasion, but not tonight, it seems. You guys have brought out the queer in me.”

Following the performance, several of the attendees spoke positively of Gibson.

“She’s one of my favorite spoken word artists and I watch her on YouTube all the time, so this was a beautiful dream come true,” Diane Adamson, a junior, said. “She’s very genuine and writes poems that are so relatable ... and that works really well.”

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