“I am always in the process of becoming”: Andrea Gibson In Conversation With Eyezine
Andrea Gibson is a poet, spoken word artist and gender rights activist. In 2014, Gibson became the first Women of the World Poetry Slam winner and has had their work featured on speakeasynyc. Gibson writes about a variety of subjects, from LGBTQ rights to the flawed education system, each of which reaches out to their audience with an inimitable intimacy. Through their poetry, the artist works to support the voices that are unspoken and unheard, by imbibing in them the faith that they are never alone. The following is an excerpt from an interview with them:
In your poem ‘I sing the body electric, especially when my power’s out’ you say “it hurts to become”. When did you truly become and how much did it hurt?
I am always in the process of becoming. There is no end point. It is continual, and the process is at once painful and awakening and exhilarating.
What would you like to say to those who dismiss feminism, calling it an extreme, misandrist movement?
Which poets and/or artists have influenced your work?
Oh, so many. Spoken word artists who have influenced me a great deal are Sonya Renee, Rachel McKibbens, Derrick Brown, Anis Mojgani, Patricia Smith….that list is so long I could keep writing names for the next hour. The first poet whose work I truly fell in love with was Mary Oliver, and her books are still the place I find the most comfort in.
Which of your poems would you say is the most autobiographical?
A lot of my poems touch on aspects of my own life, but there are many different lenses I can opt to look through. For example, “Crab Apple Pirates” is a light-hearted perspective on my experiences growing up in a very small town in the woods of northern Maine. “Trellis”, on the other hand, is a heavy stare into surviving trauma. Neither is less autobiographical than the other. They just choose different lenses.
According to your website, you’re a poet and an activist. What are your other identities?
Queer, Genderqueer, Feminist.
What, according to you, is the highest form of praise you’ve received for your art?
Anytime anyone has ever told me my work inspires them to write.
Tell us a bit about your next project.
How strong would you say the bridge between words and emotions is? Do you ever feel that language is inadequate?
I find language inadequate for what I am doing in my particular art form, meaning someone is not going to get a full sense of what I’m trying to create by reading my books. My publisher will probably be furious that I’m saying this, but I believe reading one of my poems is like reading the song lyrics to a song. The emotion of my work lives as much in the sound of it as it does in the actual text, possibly more so. So a book is never going to capture what I do.
What is your message to queer teenagers who are being silenced by bigotry?
Don’t ever stop talking to yourself about how worthy you are of immense joy, and put as much energy as possible into surrounding yourself with people who celebrate you for exactly who you are, and let their love ring through your entire being.
What is it that keeps you going at your lowest?
Writing poems, reading poems, spending time with my friends, snuggling my dog, remembering that there are other people in the world are feeling what I am feeling, remembering I am not alone and that we have the power to lift one another up.