Andrea Gibson with Chastity Brown and Molly Billows at St. James Community Square, 4/16/18
There are those for whom language is little more than a tool for picking fights and ordering lattes, and there are those for whom language has the power to make life out of nothing. For Andrea Gibson, a poet out of Boulder, Colorado, language is the alpha and the omega and nothing less.
When the venue for a sold out night of spoken word poetry is a community centre in Kitsilano, it’s easy to expect a few things. First, there will be socially-conscious dialogue. Second, there will be a loving, supportive, close-knit audience. And third, there will be politically-charged, eloquently-stated ideas about the true nature of the current world. To say, though, that last night (April 16) was merely quintessential would be to rob the evening of the nuance and subtlety brought about by poet and musician Molly Billows, musician Chastity Brown, and, of course, Andrea Gibson.
Kicking off the evening with an acknowledgment of the unceded territory on which St. James Community Square sits, (and an acknowledgment of their own ancestry), Bellows, an Indigenous, non-binary poet/musician, took the stage with nothing more than a drum and a repertoire of poetry, song, and anecdotes on political activism. They paved the way for Brown to unleash the full power of her voice.
The crowd duly primed, Gibson took the stage to the sort of uproarious applause usually reserved for the likes of Beyonce. Standing before a painted backdrop of stars and other celestial bodies (reminding one of the cosmic nothingness from whence we hail), Gibson (who also identifies as gender non-binary) launched immediately into a comment on the current political state of their Trumpian homeland, quipping “last time I was here [in Vancouver] I think Obama was still president, so, this is gonna be a much more depressing show.”
With four books and seven albums under their belt, Gibson had a vast reserve to draw on for the evening. With their trademark knack for grabbing a reader by the hand and taking them from dust to the cosmos in the time it might take a lesser mortal to articulate their name, Gibson led the audience through such universals as human loneliness, the desperate need to hear and be heard, and the unquestionable humanity of dogs. Touching on the death of Michael Brown, the Pulse nightclub shooting, and the recent Parkland massacre, Gibson had the audience hanging (and crying) on their every word.
The mood eased at one point as Gibson brought their Instagram-famous pup Squash (aka Squashy, aka Squishy, aka Squash-A-Rooni Gibson) on stage for a love-letter penned to the pooch. Though Squash eventually skidded her bum across the stage during a particularly heart-wrenching line about human imperfection, “I am not fooled by my thumbs. I know I am not the tadpole’s final project,” it was clear Squash was just as enthralled as everyone else.
Rounding off the evening with an ode to the ridiculous fights that pepper every relationship, Gibson laughed about their partner’s comment on how not all poems need to include the moon, and fireflies, and repeating lines at the end before quickly integrating all three in a seamless homage to the balance between Love and Self.
In response to their final comment that they hope another two years won’t pass before they return to Vancouver, there’s only one thing to say: Andrea, ‘ a firefly is forever and you know what [our] answer is. A firefly is forever, and you know what [our] answer is.’