When times get hard, you need a good poem.
You need someone to make music out of the difficult times.
We all need Andrea Gibson.
Just by looking at Andrea Gibson, you can’t tell that they are a lyrical genius. They have shaggy brown hair, a small frame that clothes shrug off of, and a voice that doesn’t waver. They are so thin that the wind could blow them away. When they have a panic attack, they shrink to half their size. But when they recite poetry, hundreds of people stop breathing.
Gibson used to identify as a lesbian, but recently realized that they are genderqueer. That is a facet of their art as much as it is of their identity – always shifting, always transforming to encompass more, always reflecting more than it seems.
Gibson says in a recent interview
I rarely write with the hope of changing anyone’s mind, but I do write with the hope of changing people’s hearts, and that includes my own. Art gives us a container where feeling all that we feel isn’t so terrifying.”
Terrifying. They understand this feeling well – much of Gibson’s art touches on their struggles with extreme anxiety and panic attacks. Although they don’t always feel confident in or in control of social situations, they shine through their writing, so much so that sometimes they use it as a shield.
One of the reasons I started writing was because I could never find the right words in conversations I actually have a poem in which I tell a story about the first time I dated a woman who had children. On our second date, I said, ‘So, your vagina, it’s really rad that babies have come out of it…’ It was mortifying for both of us.”
Gibson’s writing contains multitudes. Sometimes they write about horrifying situations like the one above. Sometimes they write about social ills, like America’s greatest sins in When the Bough Breaks. Other times, they write about family and fear and heartbreak and the horrible privilege that is loving and losing.
Even writing about heartbreak feels like a celebration,” they say. “I don’t think there’s any art more worthy of our attention than the art of loving people well.”
They have played and continue to play sold-out shows all around the world. A peek into the audience at one of their performances is very telling – you’ll see teenagers and elderly people, people of all colors and abilities, people of different classes, men and women and genderqueer people, polyamorous couples and monogamous couples and asexuals snapping to the words. The entire world is contained within a single space. That is the power of Andrea Gibson.
Their newest poetry collection, PANSY, continues the conversation. Learn more at the official website.
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