MU Pride Month brings Andrea Gibson to MU

Andrea Gibson performs slam poetry set for MU Pride Month

In front of a packed audience Wednesday, spoken word poet Andrea Gibson gave a keynote address about queer identity, pain and love.

The event was co-hosted by the LGBTQ Resource Center and the Triangle Coalition for MU Pride Month, which ends April 28. LGBTQ coordinator Struby Struble and Tri-Co president Taylor Dukes were the masters of ceremony for the event, which took place in the Mark Twain Ballroom.

They also advertised upcoming events for Pride Month, the LGBTQ Center and Tri-Co.

After the upcoming calendar was read, Dukes told the audience about the first time she saw Gibson speak.

“It’s like she’s saying everything I want to but can’t,” Dukes said.

Dukes explained that the audience was in for something very special.

Gibson came on stage to cheering and clapping from the audience. She thanked everyone who had come out and began by asking if anyone had been to the Pride Parade that had happened earlier that day. About 30 hands in the audience shot up.

“I got to ride on a golf cart during Pride Parade,” Gibson said. “It was the best float I had ever been on.”

Gibson’s first poem, she explained, was the best one she knew to start with for stage fright.

“After all,” Gibson said. “The most radical thing I will do in my lifetime is love the body I am in.”

Gibson recited some of her more popular poems including “Jewelry Store,” the love poem “Prism,” the anti-war tearjerker “For Eli” and “A Letter to the Playground Bully, from Andrea, Age 8 and a half.” She also performed “Royal Heart,” “Crab Apple Pirates” and “Birthday,” as well as a few poems that Gibson didn’t name.

The performance of each poem began the same way. Gibson took a drink of water, stepped up to the microphone and closed her eyes. She breathed in and the first line would come out with her exhale.

Her phrases became shorter and terser, her voice wobbling and nearly breaking under the sheer weight of the topics she was screaming in to the microphone about.

In between poems, Gibson spoke candidly with the audience. She talked about “erasing her voice box” when her college friends made fun of her Maine accent, staying in situations that pushed her buttons and the decade in which she didn’t speak to her family.

“Just because your parents don’t accept you now doesn’t mean that they never will,” Gibson said. “If you have unsupportive family or friends, reach out to your family that is here.”

Gibson was also very adamant about the benefit of art for anyone going through tough family issues or mental disease.

“Art is a way that I’m rewriting my own history and reshaping my own body,” Gibson said.

Not everything was dark and somber. Gibson told a story about her newfound fear of having blood vessels in her eyes pop when she gets worked up, and the fact that her busted fingernail could fall off at any second.

“I was going to say I don’t want to do another queer poem, but I’m reading them, so they’re all queer,” Gibson said, laughing. “I will tell you honestly, this is one of the queerest sets I’ve ever done.”

This statement was met with an eruption of laughter, cheering and applause from the audience.

After an hour and a half, Gibson brought her set to a close with parting words to everyone sitting in front of her.

“Thank you for having such an amazing set and such wonderful energy,” Gibson said. “Unless you’re a performer, you don’t know how much a performance has to do with energy of the audience. I don’t feel like I did any work tonight, and you just gave all this energy.”

Gibson met fans in the back of the show space for merchandise, photos, signatures, hugs and small talk. Two students waiting in line to meet Gibson said they had driven an hour and a half to hear Gibson speak.

“I just really, really like Andrea Gibson,” Truman State University student Angela Telle said. “I didn’t even like slam poetry until I heard her.”

The two students agreed that Gibson’s performance of “Prism” was their favorite of the set.

“Prism was nuts,” Truman State University student Chelsay Hollon said. “She’s saying what everyone wants to say, but she says it better.”

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