© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'I Write Where I Want To Be': Spoken Word Poet Andrea Gibson

Andrea Gibson’s poetry covers a wide spectrum of topics, including gender, love, loss, family and mental health. Their (Gibson prefers the they/their/them pronouns) latest book, Lord of the Butterflies, is also about providing a place of healing. 

Credit Button Poetry
Button Poetry

While Gibson's known for spoken word performances and has released several albums, they've also authored four full-length collections of poems. Gibson notes that it is not writing poetry on the page in which they are most comfortable but standing in front of an audience without a book. That's what drew them to spoken word poetry in the first place.

"I just feel in love with it immediately because it was so many feelings all over the place and also feelings in the direction of hoping to change the world for the better," Gibson recalls. "[Poetry] was my clear path because I wanted something to get done right away."

Gibson admits they didn't start writing poems until a publisher asked about writing a book. However, they do think that the intersection between spoken word and more traditional poetry is growing — both for poets and their audiences.

"People are showing that they can exist in both spaces and exist powerfully and beautifully. So, I think that there's not as much separation as there used to be," says Gibson.


For Gibson, the creative process of creating poetry always "lifts them up into a better space."

"I rarely write where I am. I write where I want to be. So, my best self is in my poems because I try to write them down and then try to live in that direction," Gibson explains. "They're sort of like little molds of where I dream to be."

Some of their poems are political in nature, with pieces tackling events such as the Pulse nightclub shooting to a poem titled Dear Trump Voter. Gibson's work is a response to what is happening in the world as a way to help process the issues and feelings presented. As a queer spoken word poet, Gibson's very nature of their existence is political for many.

"I rarely write where I am. I write where I want to be."

"The simple act of telling the truth I think is political," Gibson states. "I also think that creating art, to put beauty into this world right now is political and radical."

Gibson notes that art in its many forms needs to continue to occupy a large public space. And while the phrase "poetry is dead" is still common, Gibson thinks it's becoming more accessible for readers (and listeners).

Credit Boswell Book Company

"We all go to see bands that we love, even if we’re not musicians. So, I always wondered, 'why aren’t people who aren’t writers coming to hear poetry?' " asks Gibson.

Poetry without an audience, Gibson says, would make for an incomplete piece and an incomplete feeling.

"[Spoken word poetry] feels healing, it feels like its own sort of therapy," says Gibson. "It [feels] like this conversation, and I don't think the audience ever really knows how much of the poem they're pulling out of a poet."

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.