Fanning the flame
Celebrated poet Andrea Gibson brings message of vigilant activism to upcoming poetry event
Jeff Lucey came back from Iraq
and hung himself in his parents basement with a garden hose
the night before he died he spent forty five minutes on his fathers lap
rocking like a baby…
our eyes are closed
there are souls in
the boots of the soldiers
fuck your yellow ribbon
you wanna support our troops
bring them home
and hold them tight when they get here
—Andrea Gibson, from “For Eli”
One thing Andrea Gibson has noticed about her audiences, across the country since President Obama took office is that “people are not as fired up” about her political poetry as they were before he was elected —that her listeners seem “more complacent, more apathetic, more comfortable. They think we don’t need it [political activism] as much,” said Gibson, speaking by phone from her home in Boulder, Colo.
“We need it more,” continued the 33-year-old lesbian poet/activist, whose busy touring schedule has her “more on the road than at home these days.”
“I feel like we’re at a place that we really have an opportunity to make a difference,” offered Gibson. “It’s such a critical time. We—the voices on the left—we have the potential to have so much political power. This is the time to be more political than we’ve ever been.”
Gibson—a small-framed, fine-boned woman with a shock of short, brown hair—will appear as the special guest at the 2009 Summertime Invitational Poetry Slam on June 4 at Café Coda, capping off an evening of slam-poetry competition featuring some of the best slam poets in California.
She speaks fervently when it comes to the things close to her heart, both on the telephone and on stage. YouTube is loaded with videos of Gibson’s passionate spoken-word performances from venues around the country (and in Europe) showing her expounding artfully—at times with an almost evangelical zeal—against war or the suffering of women, or in favor of same-sex marriage.
“A flame thrower of poetic wildfire” is how widely known local poet and filmmaker Tazuo Yamaguchi (who is also the organizer of the upcoming Café Coda slam) describes Gibson. Yamaguchi has known Gibson since 2003 and has filmed her “many times in fierce competition.”
“She reminds us humans how once there was no separation between poetry and song,” said Yamaguchi admiringly. “She shows us how the original musical instrument was our human, heart-filled bodies.”
Gibson is looking forward to coming to Chico for the third time to perform.
“I performed in Chico two times—they were two of my favorite shows,” Gibson said. “I’m really excited to be back, to be there in Chico.”
As for the big picture, Gibson wants to continue doing what she’s been doing for the past five years: “performing as much as possible and reading to as many people who want to listen.
“I love listening to all the other poets, and meeting new people,” added Gibson, with a touching guilelessness. “I get more from listening to others—it helps my writing more—than just sitting writing for 10 hours.”