Andrea Gibson moves crowd with spoken word

Posted by Gia Vaccarezza

Spoken word artist Andrea Gibson visited the college on April 9 to perform as a part of the (Dis)orderly Voices Festival.

Professor Rebecca Krefting and her students of the American Studies course, "Disorderly Women," sponsored the festival, which lasted from April 8 to April 9.

Gibson's poetry performance, which was held in Gannett Auditorium, mesmerized the crowd and received a standing ovation.

Gibson first performed at an open mic in Denver, Colo. and since then has won the Denver Grand Slam four times. She also finished fourth in the 2004 National Poetry Slam and finished third in the 2006 and 2007 Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2008, Gibson became the first poet to win the Women of the World Poetry Slam.

Her poetry covers many topics that range from gender norms to political statements concerning war. Saturday night's performance featured works from three of her spoken word CDs: "Yellowbird" (2009), "When the Bough Breaks" (2006) and "Swarm" (2004). She also released an album in 2003 titled "Bullets and Windchimes."

Gibson's work is often accompanied by an instrumental track that she plays on her laptop. The tracks featured during her performance were soothing and added to the feeling of intimacy between speaker and audience.

Her poetry touched on various topics and resonated strongly with students, especially in light of the recent dialogues that the college has had concerning the issues of race, sexuality and overall equality.

There is a great range of emotions in Gibson's work. Poems like "Swing Set" explore her experience as a kindergarten teacher whose students were constantly asking if she was a boy of a girl. Yet Gibson makes light of this, since once the children's curiosities are answered, they always ask for a push on the swing set.

Then there are poems like "For Eli," which Gibson dedicates to her friend, Elijah, who served in the army. Her word choice in this poem is the most stunning, like in the line, "Michael, 19… Steven, 21… John, 33/how ironic that their deaths sound like bible verses."

Even for those who have not experienced the effects of war, the somber tone and the brutal honesty that "not all casualties come home in body bags" can make the listener's skin crawl.

It is not enough to say Gibson has great talent with words. She creates and develops a relationship with her audience—or at least, she did when she was here.

Another poem she read was only a few lines, written by her niece. She asked audience members to record her reading and post it to YouTube so that her niece's wish to be on television would come true.

Gibson's ability to take excerpts from her personal life and share them with the world is incredible. Her poetry grabs the audience, shakes them around, makes them cry, makes them laugh and finally sets them back down gently. Her works inspire honest and heartfelt discussion as well as hope for equalities across all planes.

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