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Photo: Coco Aramaki

Interview with spoken word poet Andrea Gibson ahead of their show at the NAC—04.15.19

By Shannon Ing on April 15, 2019

Andrea Gibson is one of the most celebrated and influential poets of our time. They will be gracing the capital stage this Monday, April 15 at the National Arts Centre with fellow poet Megan Falley. Gibson is an award winning spoken-word poet and LGBTQ+ activist. Their poems take audiences through powerful explorations of truth on love, gender, politics, identity, loss and family.

Gibson has been providing the world with bold, hopeful, and vulnerable poetry for two decades. They recently published their fourth book, Lord of the Butterflies, and released their seventh album, Hey Galaxy. Both are beautifully constructed pieces addressing the current political climate layered with love and hope. Gibson took the time to answer some of my questions before their upcoming Ottawa show.

Apt613: How does being a spoken word artist shape your identity and outlook?

Andrea: It shapes how consistently I am asking questions. Writing, for me, is an exploration of truth. I don’t know something and write it down. I write to learn. My identity is impacted through spoken word mostly because it’s the place where I most clearly uncover who I am.

My identity is impacted through spoken word mostly because it’s the place where I most clearly uncover who I am.

The majority of your spoken word is accompanied by music. What inspired this combination?

I tour with a lot of musicians and have a lot of musician friends, and I’ve always preferred collaborating over creating art alone so it came about naturally.

Your latest album Hey Galaxy discusses radical topics partnered with soothing music. Why did you create this contrast?

I don’t think of the music as soothing as much as I do hopeful. It’s important to me to keep a ray of light shining through everything I create. Even my darkest poems. Music helps me do that.

I understand you were writing a love album before the current US administration was elected, which you then changed the record’s perspective to better address the current political climate. Do you think parts of the earlier project appear in Hey Galaxy?

Absolutely. I would never want to put out an album, even a very political one, in which there was no love. And sadly, queer love is still a very political topic. It’s pretty heartbreaking actually–that even a sappy love poem is a political statement.

I would never want to put out an album, even a very political one, in which there was no love.

Why do you think people turn to poetry and spoken word in such political hardships?

It helps us feel. It helps us touch into the essence of the struggle and the essence of the change we dream of seeing. I also read recently that empathy increases oxytocin levels. I loved learning that. I loved discovering that even to grieve alongside someone is to open oneself up to the light.

Do you have any plans set for your time in Ottawa?

I have an ex-girlfriend, who is a friend of mine now, who grew up in Ottawa. I have lots of ideas about the city from stories she told me and lots of little beautiful spots I’ve heard about and want to make time to visit. I’m hoping it’s a sunny day so I can spend a lot of it just roaming around and taking in the place. Those moments are one of the best parts of tour.


Andrea Gibson will be at the NAC’s Azrieli Studio on Monday, April 15 at 8pm. Tickets are available online .


 

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