Andrea Gibson is a poet and activist from Calais, Maine, who has lived in Boulder, Colorado, since 1999. Gibson’s poetry focuses on gender norms, politics, social reform, and the struggles LGBTQ people face in today’s society. A four-time Denver Grand Slam Champion, Andrea Gibson finished fourth at the 2004 National Poetry Slam, and third at both the 2006 and 2007 Individual World Poetry Slam. In 2008, Andrea Gibson became the first poet ever to win the Women of the World Poetry Slam (WOWps) in Detroit. In 2009, Andrea Gibson published Pole Dancing To Gospel Hymns and has also released numerous other books since then. In addition to using poetry to provide social and political commentary on gender and LGBTQ issues, Andrea Gibson is involved with many activist groups, and also performs at Take Back the Nightevents, LGBTQ events, pride events, trans events, anti-war rallies, peace rallies, organizations against the occupation of Palestine, and groups focused on examining the wrongs of capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy. Please enjoy my interview with Andrea Gibson.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I say I’m a poet. Most folks don’t believe me.
I’m currently reading The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
Sitting in bed with my mother sounding out the words to the children’s book she read me. It felt like opening up the universe.
If you could encourage young people to read one book in particular, what would it be and why?
If I were recommending one book to young people in the U.S right now I would recommend Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Written as a letter to his teenage son the book unpacks and explains white supremacy and the systemic and relentless racism of the United States while celebrating and honoring the lives and Black people.
What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
My least favorite job was picking up trash at a paper mill. The job only lasted for three months but I walked around for 8 hours a day picking up trash off the ground and had a headache the entire time because the smell of the place was so intense. The only good thing about it is that’s where I learned to write poems in my head.
Do you read as much as you’d like to?
No, not lately. I’ve been on tour for the last three months and one of the musicians on the tour spend the entire van ride each day reading. I’m so envious. I’d love to be someone who could read in the car without getting sick.
What books do you feel are important reading for people on your career path and why?
Books and books and books of poetry, for sure. I could spend all day writing poems and not improve my writing craft nearly as much as I do when I’m reading other people’s poetry. I also think that if someone is interested in writing spoken word it’s helpful to read a lot of nonfiction that speaks to social justice to gain a more informed lens.
Is there a book that you’ve read more than once? What is it and why did you revisit it?
I’ve read When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön probably 20 times and I imagine that says a great deal about my life! Ha! Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist nun who writes with such tenderness and humor about the human experience and whenever I’m in a difficult space her writing pulls me back to shore.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
In the past few years, I’ve recommended A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara the most, but I recommend it carefully and with disclaimers as I don’t think it’s a book that everyone can read at any time. Because it’s so heavy I’ve watched a few friends sink into a depression after reading it. That said, it’s an overwhelmingly gorgeous story and if you’re into having your heart torn out of your chest it’s the book for you.
What’s your favourite genre of book?
Is there a genre called “Heart Wrenching But Slightly Hopeful Fiction”?
What do you think a world without books would be like?
Like a world without trees—-not enough oxygen to survive.
Is there an author whose writing you’re such a fan of, that you’ll read everything they release?
Do you think digital books will ever completely replace real books?
No. I have this eerie feeling that if we ever get to that place the world will be close to ending.
What book do you feel humanity needs right now?
I’m gonna say the book I’m reading—-The Body Is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor.
The book that’s had the biggest impact on me is Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
I’d also include Hunger by Roxane Gay.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’ve been more and more interested in science, books exploring the cosmos, that unpack the galactic expanse of the universe, books that try to dissect eternity. I like reading things my brain has to work hard to understand.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
EVERYBODY’S DARK SIDE IS DAYTIME SOMEWHERE.
If you’d like to learn more about Andrea Gibson, you can find more on their website, Instagram and Twitter.
Image credit: Coco Aramaki