Andrea Gibson and Slam Poetry

In case you didn’t know, we are currently in the midst of National Poetry Month.  On my own college campus, this has come to be overshadowed by the fact that it is also Carleton’s Pride Month, and though there is no shortage of poetry-related events on campus, the Gender and Sexuality Center is proving to be tough competition in the struggle for student support and recognition.

An event that I recently attended was in the spirit of both things we at Carleton are honoring this April.  Andrea Gibson, an internationally acclaimed slam poet, performed at the Cave, Carleton’s own student-run pub.  The place was packed.  Standing-room-only packed.  People-listened-from-outside packed.  You get the picture.  I suppose that when you tell a campus full of LGBTQ/poetry enthused/politically concerned students that the 2008 winner of the women’s world poetry slam is coming to campus and that her work deals with themes that “deconstruct gender norms, sexuality, class, patriarchy, and white supremest capitalist culture,” you can expect that the hearts of many students on campus will skip several beats from the sheer prospect of the joy they know will accompany her performance.  (Here‘s her bio, in case that quote sparked your interest.)

The hype is well-deserved.  Of all the events I have been to during my time in college, Gibson’s slam performance is my favorite, without question (I say this as both a poet and a budding member of the LGBTQ community).  Her poems were shockingly personal, a way of approaching poetry that I have yet to master/give in to, and as you would expect from a professional poet, her willingness to reveal to us her deepest emotions and private experiences is moving, inspiring, so many other -ings that I need not list.  But instead of asking you to take my word for it, I’ll let Andrea speak for herself:

She says that “A doctor once told me I feel too much,” and her feeling is contagious.  When she smiled as she spoke certain words, I wanted to laugh, and when she held her hands out to the audience and seemed to cry and beg for us to listen, I listened hard, with my whole being.

It’s poetry like hers that makes me want to write poetry – to write it better and read it louder.  My own poetry seems feeble next to hers, or perhaps just meeker and self-aware and quiet, so I hope that in exposing whatever readership I might have to Gibson’s work, I haven’t lost you all to her words.

And you can look forward to another post about famous slam poets in the near future.  Tomorrow, Anis Mojgani and Derrick Brown will be performing on campus, and I have high expectations…


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