Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Andrea Gibson, an award-winning poet with a large following among Swatties, held an LPAC audience in rapt attention last Wednesday for a ninety-minute performance of some of her most personal poems. Her performance, both the cathartic release of introspective dealings and a series of messages about the current state of society, incorporated poems such as “I Sing the Body Electric; Especially When My Power Is Out,” “Letter To The Playground Bully,” “I Do,” “The Nutritionist,” and “Prism.”
Words cannot do Gibson’s performance justice. It was an exposé on humanity’s malevolence and benevolence, a reaffirmation of the power of empathy and the overwhelming feeling of community and family among victims, survivors, and empathetic believers.
The LPAC theater was filled almost to capacity with members of the Swarthmore community, many of whom had also attended Gibson’s writing workshop the day before. Members of the spoken word club OASIS, including Reem Abdou ‘14, Noel Quiñones ‘15, Julian Randall ‘15, and Samantha Stevens ‘15, opened for Gibson.
Gibson, who is based in Boulder, Colorado, often writes about topics such as the LGBTQ community, political and social reform, and gender norms. No matter what the topic, her lyrical words all contain powerful messages. This was evident in “For Eli,” a poem about soldiers in war.
“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”
The poems drew a collective solemnity as her words lay heavily in the air.
Many of her poems deal with identities and the struggles of the LGBTQ community. “I heard the news of a gay man being burned alive,” Gibson said, “and it made me so angry.” The man who was burned alive became an inspiration for her aurally powerful poem, “Ashes.”
Some of her work is on the lighter side, such as “A Letter to my Dog, Exploring the Human Condition.” (Her dog’s name is Squash.)
“You taught me a good nap is the best therapy
You taught me to sit when I damn well want to sit
I don’t care that you never talk about capitalism or patriarchy or the heteronormative hegemonic paradigm
I know you’re saving the world every time you get poo stuck in your butt hair and you don’t go looking for someone to blame”
Kat Galvis ‘17 said she thought “it was definitely incredible to see her perform live. I’ve seen many videos of her performances, but they are different every time. The emotions and energy that she puts into her work can be felt throughout the entire room… She definitely inspired me. Her work really resonates with anyone who has gone through a hardship.”
“Write what terrifies you,” Gibson said. “Misery poems are my happy poems, because I get to get all of these fucking things out of my system.”