I first came across Andrea Gibson’s work on Spotify, after listening to their album Hey Galaxy! An amalgamation of beautiful spoken word poetry put to music. Each piece felt like a snippet of someone’s rawest moments, collated to create a patchwork of love, loss, identity and family. A lot of the pieces on the album are inside the tour’s namesake poetry collection Lord of the Butterflies. I had the chance to catch up with Andrea to chat to them about their upcoming trip to the UK.
What are you most looking forward to on this tour?
They loved all of the cities they’d already been to and had lots of friends scattered around. They’d been to the UK about ten years ago and we chatted about some key sight-seeing locations in Nottingham (shout out to Wayne Manor). They were especially looking forward to having their dear friend Buddy Wakefield opening the show, a well renowned poet whose been featured on the BBC, HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, and ABC Radio National.
Your latest poetry collection (as well as the name of your tour), ‘Lord of the Butterflies’ tackles a lot of different themes and topics, what was the premise/ drive behind writing it?
Andrea told me that they had been in the process of a different project when they found out Trump had been elected president. Following this, the project took a different direction to draw attention to addiction, love, gender and sexuality- things they felt needed to be openly discussed.
“Essentially, it encompasses a kaleidoscope of feelings following Trump’s election, choosing to revel in, rather than mute, those emotions.”
Andrea said Lord of the Butterflies is a lot of different things. A political book, their angriest book, and yet also their most loving. Essentially, it encompasses a kaleidoscope of feelings following Trump’s election, choosing to revel in, rather than mute, those emotions. Following this, Andrea expressed that they were hopeful that maybe things would get better and that they wanted to write happier poetry, but also felt a sense of duty to use their platform to broadcast and draw attention to contemporary issues until these changes happen.
Your poetry deals a lot with prevalent subjects in today’s society such as mental health, LGBTQ issues, gender norms and politics. How can these platforms be used for free speech and to vocalise these issues?
So important, they told me that spoken word all over the world has the power to really impact people, inspiring anyone in the general public to speak up and have a voice. For them, spoken word can be utilised as a social justice movement.
The poem ‘Your Life’ and its accompanying music video is very inspiring and evocative, with the comments on the video alone showing how much your words have helped create a safe space for people who may be struggling with their sexuality or identity: one user goes onto write, ‘Andrea, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but I honestly believe that your poetry will save lives. Thank you so much for everything that you do for our community. ’ How important do you feel it is for these safe spaces to exist for people who are growing up in today’s society to have access to?
Incredibly so, Andrea told me how different they felt their own life would have been had they been able to access the resources that mainstream media and social platforms have now enabled.
The ability to create a safe space for others means that you have people celebrate your stories and love you exactly as you are, so it always matters. One of the most memorable recollections they can recall is listening to a woman singing about another woman as people believing that their lives are possible is crucial to a healthy world.
“[P]eople believing that their lives are possible is crucial to a healthy world”
We talked about how the first true sense of community they felt was when they got more into the poetry world and then the queer community. The mutual support and shared sense of experiences was something that made them feel connected to something much bigger. And this is something that I feel Andrea is replicating in their own work as being able to relate to and emphasise with someone’s words shapes your own sense of identity.
As I mentioned before, looking at the comments on Andrea’s poem ‘Your Life’ it is more than evident that their words have reached thousands, especially younger people who may be at a vulnerable stage in their life as they attempt to discover who they are.
Do you find the process of performing/ writing to be therapeutic in nature, a way of dealing and processing life and everything it throws at us?
Andrea agreed to an extent, saying that they were more comfortable writing rather than performing. They wouldn’t call themselves a natural performer whereas they had friends that you could clearly tell were made for it.
They admitted that they were quite anxious and shy when they start telling a story, getting really nervous at the beginning and then gaining confidence as they go but that people find that awkwardness charming. I myself agree, noting that at the start of our interview I was extremely nervous, stumbling over my words and apologising frequently. It was quite refreshing when they reassured me that they found interviews to be equally anxiety-inducing and that my jitters had made them feel more comfortable.
“[T]here [is] something quite healing in speaking your truth out loud and then being able to share and reflect on the experience afterwards”
However, they also find performing to be extremely cleansing and love nothing more than the feeling of an after-show glow. They said there was something quite healing in speaking your truth out loud and then being able to share and reflect on the experience afterwards.
Having the chance to speak to someone paving the way forward by starting conversations surrounding much needed debates in today’s society was truly amazing. Andrea Gibson’s poetry brings to light discussions surrounding gender, the LGBT+ community, mental illness, politics, love, family, loss, and devastation. Not only are their poems extremely personal and intimate but they speak to an entire generation, and, as I said before, create a safe space for those who need it most where expression and imagination can roam free.
Overall, Andrea Gibson is taking the poetry world by storm and I for one am very excited for the chance to experience their exhilarating poetry onstage!
Andrea Gibson’s Lord of the Butterflies show comes to the Glee Club in Nottingham on 16th May, tickets can be found here.
Featured image courtesy of Coco Aramaki via Hush PR.
Image use license here.