The fierce yet vulnerable, honest and artful Andrea Gibson, a queer spoken word poet whose emotionally driven work immersed in themes of gender identity, politics, and the facets of the heart, has been influencing people for nearly two decades.
And now with their new poetry book, Lord of the Butterflies, they are bound to influence readers and stoke emotions yet again. The politically charged book is set to be released on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, with scheduled book performances starting Friday, November 23, 2018. See Gibson’s tour dates and locations at andreagibson.org.
For now, take a glimpse into the poetic genius’ mind as we chat with them about their new book and what it means to be queer and an activist.
What was the inspiration behind the poems in this book?
Many of the poems were written in response to the Trump election and the administration’s actions since. It may be my most political book, but also my most emotionally transparent. I’ve had A LOT of feelings in the last two years and feelings ruled this project.
What was your process for writing Lord of the Butterflies? Additionally, what did your editing process look like?
There was no specific process in the beginning. I was simply writing nonstop post-election—-writing every little emotional blizzard down, and I knew I would one day compile many of the pieces into a book. The editing process was in large part just trying to stop writing long enough to put a collection together.
How do you think art, more specifically poetry, and politics work together?
We are living in a politically dishonest and intentionally deceptive time and so the simple process of telling the truth can be a radical act. We are also living in a destructive time and I know no better way to combat destruction than with creativity. Many poems today are written like anthems, like rally cries for action, and it’s my hope that people keep reading, and continue to grow inspired to create a more gentle world.
What does being queer and a queer author mean to you?
Queerness is so much a part of me I would have an equally difficult time answering “What does being you mean to you?” But if I were to give it a try I’d say being a queer author keeps me forever fighting for freedom, and keeps the leashes off of my expression on the page and in my lived life.
As an artist and activist, what change would you most like to see occur for the LGBTQ+ community?
I have a couple of close friends who started a project called A QUEER ENDEAVOR, and they are working to educate teachers and school staff to create safer school environments for LGBTQ+ youth. I’d love to see this happen all over the world. I can’t imagine how different my life would have been had that been work schools were doing when I was young.
In what ways has your identity shaped your writing and vice versa; how has your writing shaped your identity?
It’s rare that I ever figure something out and then work to write it down. More commonly I write to figure something out, and I’m very often trying to figure out myself. I’ve discovered much of who I am through the writing process. In regards to how my identity has shaped my writing—in every single way. It informs why I write, how I write when I write, and what I write about.
What is something you think people can do to help remove themselves and others from having a binary and heteronormative mindset?
Spend time around queer people. Read the writings of queer people. Take in the art of queer people. Listen to the stories of queer people.
Your work celebrates truthfulness and vulnerability. What struggles (if any) have you had with adding these attributes to your poems? How has it liberated you? And do you have any advice for people battling with the truth in their life or writing?
Some people create their safety by keeping their inner experiences to themselves. I have always felt safer when the truth is revealed, so when discussing most issues of my life being transparent helps me feel as if there is more ground beneath me. I trust the truth to have my back. But there is a time for everything, and there are still some stories that I have not yet been ready to share on the page. My advice to writers would be to be brave, to honor your own heart with a willingness to express who you are, but to prioritize your wellness and consider when is and isn’t a healthy time for YOU to share.
Which do you think is more powerful creatively, love or loss? Why?
I think all writing is about love. There is simply nothing else we write about. Grief is about love. Terror is about love. War is about who and what was loved and lost. There is no writing about loss that isn’t writing about love.
How has your background in spoken word and slam poetry been translated to your poems in Lord of the Butterflies? And would you say the poems in this book are best experienced on the page or performed?
It doesn’t help sell books to say this, but I write poems to be spoken out loud. The way a songwriter wants to sing the song, I want [to] speak the poem into being. The page will never be where my words live best, but I still can be very excited about a book, and I am especially with this most recent one.
What do you think are the best and worst parts of your job?
My favorite part is collaborating with other artists. As of late, I’d had the opportunity to collaborate with musicians and dancers and filmmakers and I’ve even been dreamy about collaborating with skateboarders and basketball players. I love creating with other people. It’s endlessly inspiring. The parts that are more difficult for me involve being away from home so much and also having a more public life that is my preference. But those things are small in comparison to what is wonderful.
What do you hope readers get out of Lord of the Butterflies, whether that is an emotion or overarching message?
My hope is that the book feels like a companion to people who could use a friend. I hope, even in its political despair and rage, that the book offers comfort and reminds folks they are not alone in their experiences. FEELINGS are terrifying sometimes, but to be reminded that you aren’t the only one feeling, can be very soothing.
We here at KWIR Media congratulate Andrea Gibson on their new book release, Lord of the Butterflies.
To pre-order Lord of the Butterflies and to find out more information about Andrea Gibson’s upcoming tour, click here.