Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Hypnotic Voice of Andrea Gibson

I was introduced to Andrea Gibson's slam poetry about a week ago, and I fell head over heels in love with her instantly. To be a poet, you gotta have a way with words. But Andrea Gibson? I feel like she's reintroducing me to my own language every time I listen to her, she weaves words into magick in a way that's mesmerizing and at times even hypnotic. The first poem I listened to her preform was "I Do," which was in response to prop 8. It gave me goosebumps and literally moved me to tears. Love is love. And "I Do" is the most beautiful and sad love story I've heard in a long time. The way she preforms all of her poetry... there's just such a raw, passionate electricity in her that she forces you to feel what she feels. It's also just amazing how she flawlessly blends the political with the romantically intimate and humourous. So how is a lesbian love poem feminist? Because the anti-feminist movement is driven by the patriarchy, which wants to maintain traditional gender roles in order to keep its power. So by challenging the restrictive constructs of sexuality that the patriarchy endorses, she's challenging the patriarchy itself.

"Blue Blanket," which explores the idea of rape, is another of my favorites. I feel like there's a movement in our culture to trivialize rape. I see this in the idea that there are "gray shades" of rape (like the assertion that "date rape" doesn't count, or that if a woman is drinking/out late, that she should have known better and been more responsible, and thus it's really her fault). "Blue Blanket" is powerful because she calls it what it is. She doesn't apologize or shy away from the subject, saying something like "oh, yes it was traumatic, but I suppose I'm just sensitive" or "well, I really shouldn't have been walking home alone that late at night." No. The voice of the poem is traumatized and recognizes her right to outrage. In all the versions I've seen, she becomes so passionate that by the end, she's almost singing. The last line is so strong, it sticks with you. I haven't been able to get it out of my head all week. And it brings up such a good point. For years I've had issues with the idea that being a young woman, I can't be out late at night by myself because I "might be attacked." I'm not playing down the fact that statistically women are more at risk of violence than men, but I have issues with the fact that nobody's ever asked me why I haven't walked my boyfriend home when it's late and dark. They don't fret over his safety because our society doesn't label him a potential victim. But me? I've been taught since I was a young girl to take extensive precautions so that I remain safe. And I'm called sensible if I take them, and foolish and irresponsible if I don't. A man would typically be considered paranoid and ridiculous if he took the same precautions. Unless, of course, he identifies as a minority that puts him at risk, such as being queer. Why do we allow the idea that "boys will be boys" to permeate our culture? Why does the burden of "responsibility" and "sensibility" fall only on those that we consider at risk for being turned into victims of violence? I refuse to believe there's anything inherently dangerous about men. The reason men are statistically more likely to become rapists is that our society enables them. Why is it though that we teach the people more at risk of being attacked how to be safe, instead of teaching those more likely to become perpetrators of such violence not to attack other people? Is it impossible to reach a balance so that everyone feels as safe during the day as when the sun goes down?

My other two favorite poems by Gibson are "Swingset" and "The Last Poem I'll Ever Write." The first one, "Swingset," is fantastic because it speaks to the way the ambiguous, in terms of gender, leave many people uncomfortable, confused and upset. The poem is about her own gender experience, and she frames it around the way children perceive her and her gender, and how that differs from the way adults do. "The Last Poem I'll Ever Write" is on my list simply because it's so apologetically beautiful and intimate. Unlike "I Do," which is romantic and sweet and beautiful but also defiant, "The Last Poem I'll Ever Write" is soft and personal. I think this poem proves that you can't label Andrea Gibson a "lesbian poet" or anything like that, because even though Gibson's poetry is a testimony to the ways in which the personal is political, her work transcends any box or niche you can try to put her in.

"I Do" and "Blue Blanket" (as well as a bunch of other poems and links to her bio, shows, photos and stuff) are on Andrea Gibson's blog,, which you should definitely check out. Listen to what she has to say, let her blow your mind and permeate your soul. The world needs to hear Gibson's voice. What she has to say is important and inspiring, so I'm glad to have shared it with at least one other person.

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