Emotionally connect through the spoken word

Activist, slam poet, and the first winner of the Women’s Poetry Slam, Andrea Gibson, is coming to the Hawthorne Theater on March 8 in Southeast Portland.

Gibson was born in Calais, Maine, and has been writing poetry since they were very young. Gibson became more serious in college, but didn’t really get absorbed in the poetic arts until they discovered spoken word after college in Denver.

Gibson’s early influences include Mary Oliver, but the first spoken word artists that inspired them were Saul Williams and Patricia Smith.

“They blew open everything I believed about what words could do out loud,” Gibson said.

Now with five full albums and two books to their credit, Gibson is inspired by people who are willing to take risks.

“I admire people who tell the truth when they are terrified to tell the truth. I admire people who speak up when it is easy not to. I admire people whose minds are easily changed,” Gibson said.

Gibson also explained they admire people who supposedly know very little but are curious, people who wonder about almost everything.

“I am trying to wonder more, and know less,” Gibson said. “I notice the more attached I become to my own rightness the less open I am to the world.”

This openness is a quality that Gibson wants to reverberate through their work.

Gibson said they are drawn to spoken word because of the connection the artist creates with the audience.

“I’m not sure audiences always know how much of the poem they are pulling out of the poet,” Gibson said. “It’s a wild phenomenon that makes each individual show uniquely inspiring and uniquely connective.”

However, Gibson’s poetry isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart. They like the idea that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. No topic is off-limits: war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality, to name a few.

Gibson’s poetry is also personal. They often reveal intimate details about their private life and health. For example, their poem “The Nutritionist,” recounts Gibson’s visits to a slew of different doctors and health practitioners looking for various pieces of advice to help them cope with trauma.

Nora Walker is a longtime fan of Gibson and is ecstatic about attending the upcoming show.

“Listening to Andrea Gibson read her poetry feels like having one of those terrifyingly honest conversations with someone you love,” Walker said. “Her words are a mass of woven paradoxes: brutal truth hits as the gentlest tenderness, the silliest lines often, simultaneously, the most serious, blissful love is immediately one and the same with heartbreak.”

Molly Simas, an MFA student in Creative Writing at Portland State, also agreed with Gibson’s talent in connecting with the audience.

“I think Andrea Gibson has a unique gift for conveying the true nature of human emotions, with an honesty that makes reader or listeners feel more alive and better for it,” Simas said.