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NUNN ON ONE: POETRY Andrea Gibson: Gender queer poet makes inroads
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jerry Nunn, Windy City Times
2018-01-09

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Award-winning poet Andrea Gibson is coming to town and bringing some of their best work. This genderqueer artist identifies with the pronouns they and has worked in many activist groups. In 2013, they launched a website called "Stay Here with Me" to provide support for those struggling with suicide.

Their new album, Hey Galaxy, drops Friday, Jan. 12, and is Gibson's seventh record. It covers everything from a valentine's track to the Matthew Shepard tragedy.

They have written three books, including The Madness Vase and Pansy.

Raised in Maine but now living in Colorado, Gibson heads to Chicago for an upcoming performance.

Windy City Times: When did you first start doing poetry?

Andrea Gibson: I have been writing for as long as I can remember. In junior high I would write stories that were too sad for child of that age.

WCT: What kind of change have you seen in the poetry community?

I have been a part of the community for 17 years now. I think we have done a lot of growing and learning together. There were things I was writing, even a decade ago, that I look at now and cringe. My politics and the way I see the world has changed so vastly. I will look at a book I wrote and can't believe I said something.

The spoken-word movement has expanded and gotten popular. When first started the audience would be poets, now it is not. It is the same way that people see a band play and are not musicians. Everyone can still appreciate it. I love to see it grow in that way.

WCT: When did you first begin working with performer Mary Lambert?

I think right when "Same Love" [Lambert's song with Macklemore] came out. We toured together a number of dates that year. We have met up on the road since then. She has popped into a few of my shows. She is so phenomenally talented.

WCT: You did a track with her called "Orlando." How did that happen?

I was doing a show in North Hampton. An hour before the show I got a text from her that she could come to my show. She arrived five minutes before and we figured out a collaboration for that track. We practiced it for 20 seconds and got onstage to do it.

WCT: Talk about your new album, Hey Galaxy.

I am so excited about it because it is the first album that I have put a ton of energy into. I poured my whole heart into it. I was trying to make an album about love then Trump got elected and I didn't have the heart to do that. I made it more political, but still has a lot of love on it. Queer love is political these days.

In my whole career there is nothing I have enjoyed more than writing love poems. This album talks about mental health, addiction, white privilege, sexuality, queerness, gender and family.

The musical collaborations [are what] I am really excited about. I have many good friends who are musicians. I always prefer making art with other people than alone. Most of the tracks on the album are backed by music. There is one with no music called "To the Men Cat Calling My Girlfriend While I'm Walking Beside Her." It is essentially me screaming at the patriarchy through the whole thing.

WCT: Is it hard to not fall into ranting with spoken word?

The cat call piece is a full on rant. [Laughs] I hope it still qualifies as spoken word. A lot of spoken word is creative ranting. It is not typically the way I enjoy writing. Something like that is more rare for me these days. I enjoy yelling less about what I am thinking than I did before.

I think the state of the world right now requires some ranting and some honest yelling about what is happening.

I was in this group called Vox Feminista and we did a show called Sacred Rage that opened me up to that idea. It is almost impossible to not be furious right now or full of grief. I have to speak about that. I have been angry since Trump was elected and heart broken. I try to come back to hope and the beauty around me in terms of making beautiful things.

WCT: When you perform live how do you make it interesting?

This is a five-month-long tour. With the album title being Hey Galaxy we did a lot with it. I wanted the set to be like it is in space with planets and stars.

What is helpful for me in making it interesting is to show up with whatever I am feeling and not always follow a set list. It is what I can speak of that night sincerely and what is most present in me emotionally.

A lot of what happens live is storytelling between the poems. Where the pieces I am reading were born even if I disagree with it. If I wrote a poem five years ago I debate whether I still believe that or vibe with the message. About 25 percent of the show is improv.

WCT: What are your plans after the tour?

I just finished my first screenplay yesterday. I am working with my partner on another book. I also just finished another book of poetry that I hope will be out in the fall. So a lot is coming up!

Look for Gibson at Thalia Hall on Sunday, Jan. 28; visit AndreaGibson.org .


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