The Spoken Word of Andrea Gibson

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Spoken word poetry is a genre with specific and more or less ubiquitous traits: it has the imagistic logic of poetry (feelings, observations, arguments colliding and stacking like a freeway pile-up) and the theatricality of voice performance (which irrigates the text with nuanced tone and charge). It’s a genre perfect and custom-fit for raw expression, something in between literary poetry and song. It gives the speaker control of volume and beat. It also turns images (often idioms) on their heads and making them springboards for new images.

It’s a form appropriate for empowering, emotional storytelling that can raise awareness, be a call-to-arms for activism, give voice to the marginalized.

Some of the best spoken word I’ve heard comes from the compassionate, breathtaking, incomparably moving poetry of Andrea Gibson, whose work focuses on and criticizes the political disparities of minority groups, especially the LGBTQ community, and patriarchal gender norms, among other issues like war. Her poetry is often accompanied by music that elevates the already intensely lyrical words themselves.

Gibson redeems spoken word from some of its inherent problems–after all, it can sometimes end up only sounding true and profound while in fact being hollow, trumpery, empty evangelism. Her poetry’s ability to humanize, to talk about pain, to critique, etc., is frankly incredible. Here’s one of my favorite poems by her.

Posted by James


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