Tonight I saw Andrea Gibson speak as a keynote address at my school for Pride Month. I went to cover it for the paper, but it was merely an excuse to make sure I didn’t let myself miss out on this opportunity.
(And by speak, I mean speak a set of poems that filled me with some much amazement at the English language I thought my heart was going to burst.)
The room felt like goosebumps. From her first poem, I felt every mouth suck in air to remind itself inhale-exhale-inhale-exhale. I felt the buzzing of fingers drumming on arms with nervous energy that can only come from knowing exactly where a poem is going to sit in your chest for the rest of your life.
I closed my eyes, wanting to soak every perfect, hard-to-manage phrase down into my lungs so that I hear them with the sound of each breath. I want to write the way Andrea writes – full of mismatched synesthetics that have never made more sense than in the moment when her voice starts to buckle underneath the weight of her own words.
If you have never seen spoken word live, it’s unreal. I often find myself down the self-destructive wormhole that is listening to Buddy Wakefield spoken word at 1 in the morning, but it’s nothing like seeing it happen in front of you. There is no zoom, no crossfade, no better angle. There is the view from the seat you picked, a seat to which you are absolutely glued with the pure voice of having an artist unfold in front of you .
Afterwards, I stood in line for nearly 45 minutes to meet Andrea. Let the record show that I don’t wait in lines for things. Ever. I would rather forgo experiences than spend/waste my time standing in a line. But I knew I would kick myself for the rest of forever if I gave up an opportunity to talk to her face-to-face.
I shook like a leaf the whole time I was waiting – a combination of too much coffee, not enough food and the sheer fact that I was soon to be speaking to one of my biggest writing inspirations.
Then, all of a sudden, I was talking to her. I thanked her for writing “Jellyfish,” a poem that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for weeks. She thanked me for sharing, told me it was based on a poet named Shira Erlichman and wrote Erlichman’s name in my notebook on the page after the page she had signed for me. I took a picture with her and then left.
I’m still floating a little. It’s not often the you get to meet your heroes and leave elated.
I can’t quite do the whole experience justice, because it was so deeply and personally moving. My bones are still settling from being absolutely shaken out of their slumber. My goosebumps are just now beginning to face.
Find your heroes and seek them out. I promise your heart will thank you.
(note: this post has a lot of Youtube videos for your enjoyment, but not nearly enough to do all of Andrea Gibson’s work justice. Go fall into that Youtube wormhole and listen to EVERYTHING she’s ever done.)