By Gabriela Melgar, Transcript ReporterMixing words, performance, music and style, slam poet Andrea Gibson speaks intimately with her audience about issues of gender, identity, bullying, social justice and love.
On Monday night Gibson delivered her second performance ever at Ohio Wesleyan – in Phillips Auditorium.
She is the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam and has had her work aired on TV networks such as BBC, Air America and C-SPAN.
Gibson was brought to Ohio Wesleyan by the House of Peace and Justice, the Women’s House and the LGBTIQ Resource Center.
Sophomore Sophie Crispin, who lives at P&J, and junior Alex Crump, who lives in WoHo, introduced Gibson.
Gibson began her performance with openness about her stage fright.
“12 years of doing this and my stomach is still in butterflies, wow,” she said.
Her pieces were delivered with instrumental music in background to her voice.
The first poem she performed came from a difficult time in Gibson’s life, which she said was written “on one of my hardest days of my life.”
She spoke about being in the hospital and said, “I wasn’t being an ally to my body.”
The poem dealt with her identity and not being accepted for being gay.
“They said you are not allowed to love her,” Gibson recited. “This is my body … Say, this is my body, it is no one’s but mine.”
Gender identity was one of the common themes surrounding Gibson’s work.
She shared a quote with the audience: “Gender is the poetry each of us makes with the language we’ve been given.”
Her work spoke about the process of finding comfort with her body and identity, and in her second poem, Gibson said she “searched the home in my own skin.”
Gibson also talked about bullying and its deep implications.
“I’ve been talking to my friends lately about bullying … we carry those things for our whole lives,” she said. Gibson said she was often teased because of the way she dressed. It was “like a little man,” she said.
She shared her poem titled, “A Letter to the Playground Bully from Andrea Age Eight and a Half.”
“If I ever have my own team, I am picking everyone first,” she said. “Can’t you say, ‘Hey I’m having a bad day instead of calling me ‘stupid.’”
Gibson also shared a poem titled, “I Do” about the desire to be able to marry the woman she loves but not being able to do so because it is illegal.
“But the fuckers say we can’t,” she said. “The patriarchy can fuck itself.”
The poem focused on the deep love one woman has for another. “For fifty years you were my favorite poem … I swear my breath turned silver the day your hair did,” she said.
Gibson talked about wanting the right to see her lover in a hospital bed if she were to die, to be considered family and have the right to say goodbye.
She also shared a heavy poem about a soldier who’d been set on fire and burned for being gay.
It was a story she said she’d never forget.
Gibson said there were other stories like his. When she ended, the audience fell silent, and Gibson thanked them for not clapping.
Gibson talked about her writing process and how she is careful about gendering her poems.
“I’ve tried not to gender any of my poems,” she said. She said she does not want to support any “binaries.”
Although one of her poems was critiqued for being “too gendered” she decided to share it with the audience. It talked about rape and the abuse of women’s bodies.
“I’m asking what you’ll teach your son,” she said.
Gibson was impressed by the respect the OWU audience showed.
She said, “You guys are awesome … I don’t think I’ve ever read that poem and not had people clap.”
Sophomore Hazel Barrera said she was impressed with the balance and message of the Gibson’s performance.
“She was amazing,” Barrera said.
“The things I like the most about her are the way she balanced the whole show, the way she kept the audience entertained and engaged with her wonderful words and the way she talked about gender and life through her personal experience.”
Senior DeLaine Mayer, a member of P&J, said she shared the same feelings. As a student of political science, Mayer said she is aware of “the power of the spoken word.”
“I’d never seen her before and I thought she was really inspiring,” Mayer said.
Sophomore Karena Briggs thought Gibson’s performance was “emotional and intense.”
She was impressed by the way Gibson “talk(ed) about her truths so openly.”