Have you ever wondered what transforms words on a page or between people into something that resonates deep in your soul? My guest today, the brilliant poet Andrea Gibson, is astonishing at making this happen. Through their raw and profoundly moving spoken word poetry, Andrea has the ability to change hearts and open minds. To make us feel more seen. And less alone.
Inaugurated last month as Colorado’s new poet laureate, Andrea first took the stage over 20 years ago, compelled by a love of spoken word despite being terrified. That fear still lingers, but their authenticity and vulnerability draws you in powerfully. Weaving poetry and music into immersive performances, they have become a pioneering voice on LGBTQ issues, social justice, and shared humanity.
Today, we explore poetry’s power to illuminate and heal, the courage required for growth under public scrutiny, and their guiding ethos that authenticity and honesty matters far more than suffering. They reaffirmed my hope that poetry can reveal our common heart – something we all desperately need.
And, interestingly, Andrea believes being a poet isn’t so much about how we show up to the page or the stage, but how we show up to the world, and in our lives. In recent years, they have been very public about their cancer journey, not to draw attention to their mortality, but hoping to help others appreciate life’s brevity and feel the urgent call to truly live. For Andrea, this existence has given them more gratitude, awe, and joy than they thought would be possible in this lifetime. They wish that same awakening for everyone.
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Andrea Gibson (00:00:00) – I think that’s the value of art that, you know, I don’t think people’s minds change very quickly, but people’s hearts can change in an instant. And I think that’s something that I love about spoken word. But all art, it can change your heart in an instant. Then your mind catches up over time.
Jonathan Fields (00:00:17) – So have you ever wondered what transforms words on a page or between people into something that resonates deeply in your soul? My guest today, the brilliant poet Andrea Gibson, is astonishing at making this happen through their raw and profoundly moving spoken word poetry. Andrea has this ability to change hearts and open minds to make us feel more seen and less alone. Inaugurated last month as Colorado’s new poet laureate first took the stage over 20 years ago, compelled by a love of spoken word. Despite being terrified, that fear still lingers. But their authenticity and vulnerability draws you in powerfully weaving poetry and music into these immersive performances. They have become a pioneering voice on LGBTQ issues, social justice, and a deeper exploration of our shared humanity.
Jonathan Fields (00:01:08) – And today we explore poetry’s power to illuminate and to heal the courage required for growth under public scrutiny and their guiding ethos. That authenticity and honesty matters far more than anything else. They really reaffirmed my hope that poetry can reveal our common heart, something we all desperately need right now. And interestingly, Andrea believes that being a poet, it isn’t so much about how we show up on the page or on the stage, but how we show up to the world and in our lives. In recent years, they have been very public about their cancer journey, not to draw attention to their mortality, but hoping to help others appreciate life’s brevity and feel the urgent call to truly live. For Andrea, this experience has given them more gratitude and awe and joy than they thought would be possible. And they wish that same awakening for everyone. So excited to share this best of conversation with you. I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project. There’s a rumor floating around the Internet that I don’t know, something like 20 years ago or something like that, that you actually took the stage and performed a deeply emotional spoken word piece dressed as a cow.
Andrea Gibson (00:02:25) – Are you serious? Where did you read that? This is this is why I don’t ever look myself up online. That’s true, though. It’s true.
Jonathan Fields (00:02:35) – You got to give me a little context here.
Andrea Gibson (00:02:37) – Yeah, I was doing I had just gotten into spoken word and also veganism at the same time and was part of this performance with a group called Vox Feminism, which was this radical political artistic group of activists. We put on shows and dressed up as a cow and read. I think it was like a ten minute poem about the plight of cows in the dairy industry, actually. I remember I was so moved by it at the time. I think it was the only time maybe I ever full out cried in the middle of one of my own poems and was dressed as a cow. So it was quite awkward. I can’t believe that’s up on the Internet. Good to know.
Jonathan Fields (00:03:19) – Well, you know, our our crack research staff here, we find just about everything. Um, I mean, that’s.
Jonathan Fields (00:03:26) – I’m just picturing it now. Um, on stage, performing in a cow outfit, crying in front of people. But that must have also been really early in your career.
Andrea Gibson (00:03:37) – Yeah. I mean, I don’t think it was a career at that point. I had no, no idea that somebody could make a career out of spoken word for sure. There was, um, you know, think I knew one person who was doing it at the time. So it was a dream so big. I don’t think I had stepped into daring to dream it yet. But yeah, at the very beginning I discovered spoken word in 1999, I think, and it was still, you know, a lot of people had never heard of it. And so it was definitely right at the beginning. So I started it off right by by being a cow. I should I should return back there someday.
Jonathan Fields (00:04:16) – Right. You’re gonna have to do sort of like a 20th year anniversary.
Andrea Gibson (00:04:21) – Yeah. No.
Jonathan Fields (00:04:24) – So you have, over the last couple of decades, built this amazing presence and body of work, and I want to dive into a whole bunch of that and then invite you to share some of it as well.
Jonathan Fields (00:04:33) – But taking a step back in time, I mean, you grew up in, from what I know, a pretty tiny town in Maine.
Andrea Gibson (00:04:38) – I grew up in Callus, Maine, said spelled like the Calais in France, but said like the thing on the bottom of your foot. And it’s fitting. It was a really, really small town in the middle of the woods right on the Canadian border. So almost as east as you can get in the United States and almost as north really conservative little town, which didn’t even think of it as conservative at the time because I didn’t know what a world that wasn’t conservative looked like. But it was lovely in many ways and hard as a queer kid in a lot of ways, you know, closeted queer kid. But there was a lot beautiful about it. I spent most of my childhood just running through the woods, and it certainly provided a lot of beauty in that way.
Jonathan Fields (00:05:25) – Yeah, was I mean, it sounds like like you were almost living in sort of like this dualist presence.
Jonathan Fields (00:05:31) – Ordinary kid running through the woods, small town, classic Maine upbringing and as you said, closeted queer kid. Did you have a sense of that even at the youngest age? Or because I know also part of your upbringing is your I guess your folks were Baptist and then you ended up going to college at Saint Joseph’s, which I think is a Catholic college or a faith based college.
Andrea Gibson (00:05:52) – Yeah, it’s a.
Andrea Gibson (00:05:52) – It’s a Catholic college, which really disappointed my Baptist grandmother at the time. But I was a basketball player and it was one of, you know, the best basketball schools in the state. And when I had always hoped to go to when I was younger. And so, yeah, I was really excited to go there. So lots of lots of Jesus in my early life.
Jonathan Fields (00:06:13) – Yeah. I mean, it sounds like also I mean, if you’re growing up in that tradition and you have a sense of being different from both sexuality and a gender standpoint, that that could be a tough environment.
Andrea Gibson (00:06:26) – Yeah. Well, you know, I think I knew my gender long before I even knew my sexuality. I always look like this as a kid. And I. I always wanted my hair short and wanted to wear boys clothes. And that didn’t even feel very complex for me until I got to, I think later on in middle school and high school when it, you know, started getting bullied some for it. But yeah, it was it was it was a lot of not really being sure of who I was, but being sure in some ways and, and then having all these dreams that I didn’t know why they were my dreams. Like I thought, okay, I’m not going to get married, but I’m going to live in a loft in New York City. I always thought, I’m going to live in a loft in New York City, but didn’t know why, didn’t want to get married when I first started saying. I don’t want to get married. Didn’t know it was because. I didn’t know it was an option to marry a woman.
Andrea Gibson (00:07:16) – So marriage was sort of off the table just because I assumed it would have to be with a man.
Jonathan Fields (00:07:23) – Yeah, I know a lot of the I guess the early writing for you also was really. Well, I don’t want to make an assumption because I know once you started really focusing on that in college and creative writing and then poetry and then you’re out in the world, it seems like a lot of the focus of that writing weaves in these things of exploring identity and gender and sexuality and faith all together and often the tension that you have among them. But I know you were writing a lot earlier than that in your life. I’m curious whether those different themes were expressing themselves in your writing earlier on too.
Andrea Gibson (00:08:01) – I remember writing a lot about masks, even up through college, you know, when I still wasn’t out with my writing in college. But I only for some of those years knew what those masks were representing. I remember being in fifth and sixth grade writing a lot about hiding and masks, but I still wasn’t certain what I was hiding My early writing.
Andrea Gibson (00:08:21) – I remember my mother just being devastated by how sad everything was. She just so she wanted me to write something happy so badly. And I also was I drew and painted a lot through a large part of my life. And she always was trying to steer me away from my brain. She wanted she wanted me. She thought writing was, you know, sad. She’s like, you remember when I was little, she’d always call me her deep thinker and wish that I wasn’t her deep thinker because she, I think, was watching that thinking be sort of pained in my body.
Jonathan Fields (00:08:57) – Oh, that’s so interesting. So she saw there was a process going on and you were feeling certain things, but it’s almost like her approach was, Well, the problem is less the genesis and more the expression is what’s causing the pain. And maybe if you stopped expressing it, yeah, the suffering would stop.
Andrea Gibson (00:09:16) – And I don’t even know if it was exactly that. She just also I was such a I had so many things that I was interested in and I loved being in my body, like, loved climbing trees and sports of every kind.
Andrea Gibson (00:09:31) – And and I think that she saw me happier in those places. And what’s wild now is that I do almost all of my writing running around. So I hardly ever sit in front of the computer. I’m just pacing, jumping. You know, there’s a bed in this room I’m in right now, our guest room where I often write, jumping on the bed, whispering to the walls like, I don’t know, dancing with the chair. So I sort of, in my later life have intermingled those things. I always wonder how people write when they’re sitting still. It’s just it’s never worked for me.
Jonathan Fields (00:10:05) – That’s so interesting. You say that I learn when I’m standing or acting or moving, and I’ve tried to actually write while doing the same thing, you know, almost like speaking it out and then transcribing it and then seeing. And I can’t get the same thing. But I know when I have to learn really intensively, like I have a past life as a lawyer. And when I study for the bar, I would just hold an outline in my hand and pace outside for hours while I was like thinking it through and reviewing and trying to synthesize because it just found my brain worked on a whole different way when my physical body was in movement.
Andrea Gibson (00:10:40) – Yeah, you know, my one of my housemates is a second grade teacher and I think it took her a few years to learn that she had to let a number of her students stand up and move around while she was teaching a lesson or they wouldn’t get it. So it’s sort of sweet in a way that we all we all learn and we’re all so different. And I love the idea of, I don’t know, taking things in through our bodies, our brains, our, you know, from our temples to our toes.
Andrea Gibson (00:11:09) – So, yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:11:10) – It’s and I’m kind of fascinated, actually, that your friend was aware enough to really realize that some of the students needed to, to physical ize the experience to be able to integrate it.
Andrea Gibson (00:11:24) – Oh, yeah. She’s an amazing teacher. We actually met because we were both teaching in a montessori kindergarten together. And you know, I was there just because I love the kids so much. They were actually so much my inspiration for writing for so many years that when I stopped teaching to do poetry full time, I didn’t write for a year because they were so much my muse.
Andrea Gibson (00:11:47) – But I remember watching her just, you know, and she was very young at the time. We’ve been friends for a long time, but she was just 20 and watching the the skill of learning how to teach individuals and she was just a master at it.
Jonathan Fields (00:12:01) – Yeah, that’s so cool. It makes me wonder, given the time that we’re in now or so much of school and education has gone remote and a lot of people are lamenting the loss. So, you know, in person and interaction and the ability to teach in that way. I almost wonder if those kids who actually need to create a nontraditional learning environment or situation or physical ize it or giving themselves a freedoms to do that now that they’re doing it in their own environment, I wonder if that might be a really interesting benefit that comes out of it.
Andrea Gibson (00:12:35) – Yeah, I could see it.
Andrea Gibson (00:12:37) – I could see that being the case. You know, one thing that I’ve noticed because this is the first time in my life I’ve done, you know, sort of anything on zooms, watched, you know, zoom shows of other people and you know, how you can turn off your screen so they can’t see you, but you’re still watching.
Andrea Gibson (00:12:53) – And I realize in my own enjoyment of, you know, music or a lecture or talk or something I’m watching online, I’m almost yeah, always moving or doing something weird. And I don’t think before this time I would have known that that’s how I best take in things. You know how I listen the best. The first time I sort of doing online concerts. When the pandemic began, I was getting a flood of calls from my my manager during the thing is saying you have to stop moving. We can’t hear anything but the desk, you know, the desk shaking, the floor rattling. So I’m trying to be very. As still as possible right now while we’re recording. Right.
Jonathan Fields (00:13:35) – But I mean, how how is that for you? Because I know I would imagine I wonder if that changes the nature of what comes out in a meaningful way. I know when I’m interviewed, when I’m on the other side of the mic, I went out and I purchased a broadcast quality headset with a ten foot cord, and I almost always say like no video.
Jonathan Fields (00:13:56) – And it was because I know I have to be moving and walking around. And granted, that’s not on video, but I know about myself that because I know that if I do the exact same thing, but I’m sitting constrained in a chair, it somehow it feels like it comes out different. I wonder if you feel that what actually comes out of you is different when you’re sort of constrained by a chair versus when you’re moving?
Andrea Gibson (00:14:17) – Oh yeah, I think I definitely do. And you know, I was listening to one of your podcasts the other day by Gay Hendricks and his wife, Katie Hendricks does a lot of teaching about working with your emotions through your body. And I’ve seen I’ve been at a few of her talks, and I think that is also presents me more to the ways that I’m moving, what that is encouraging me to feel or allowing me to feel. And there’s so much, you know, sort of restricting this still in some ways. And I think even if, you know, one of my friends, they just have one finger.
Andrea Gibson (00:14:55) – They’re constantly moving. You know, it doesn’t have to be your whole body. But think for sure. And then noticing where where particular emotions live in our body, you know, the anger in our jaw and, you know, fear in our belly, sadness and our chest often. And so if I think that I’m writing something in, it’s furious and I’m moving around, but I feel that the words are more living in my chest, you know, listening to that and sort of taking a side route back to or a more direct route to the sadness instead of staying with the anger for a bit. Because, you know, typically the feeling that we’re feeling, usually there’s a feeling underneath it that is the more true feeling that we’re not.
Jonathan Fields (00:15:39) – Yeah, I love the visual also of sort of different feelings settling into different parts of your body and almost like moving those parts of your body to get access to and release.
Andrea Gibson (00:15:50) – Them and the.
Andrea Gibson (00:15:50) – Stories that live in different parts of our bodies, you know? Yeah, I have this finger that I broke in a basketball game when I was 18 and and it still sort of is achy sometimes and I can feel it and be right back on this court in Bangor, Maine, where I just have to say it, we won the state championship.
Andrea Gibson (00:16:12) – I can’t not say it.
Jonathan Fields (00:16:16) – All right. Well, you gotta own it. I mean, hard won, right?
Andrea Gibson (00:16:19) – Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got to own it. Stephen King was in the audience. You know, it was Maine. He’s a Basque. It was a big night.
Jonathan Fields (00:16:28) – And it’s all memorialized in that little thing.
Andrea Gibson (00:16:31) – Yeah, it is forever.
Jonathan Fields (00:16:35) – So you end up coming at out of college. And so writing is already a big piece of you. Creative writing, poetry starting to blossom. But I know in the early days and I’m curious whether it’s still a part of you, the idea of then going from, okay, I’m going to write things because I have all these things spinning in my head that I need to get out and synthesize. But going from there to stepping on stage is a whole different proposition.
Andrea Gibson (00:17:01) – I mean, it is for anyone, I think. And for me it was absolutely terrifying because I had been known or I had identified myself from my whole life as somebody that was more afraid of public speaking than any anyone I knew.
Andrea Gibson (00:17:18) – Like, I would rather somebody wrap a boa constrictor around my neck than talk in public. And that’s still true, which is strange to say. But yeah, to graduate college, I had to read one poem to my class and my teacher actually allowed me to get drunk to do it because I could not I could not do it. Hope don’t get him in trouble. But I could not do it without that. But then when I moved to Colorado, I went to my first poetry slam, and I remember walking into the room that night and the first time as soon as this a guy who’s actually a friend of mine now named Ian, started reading his poem. He was probably 20s into it and I just knew I had to do that and I knew it was going to terrify me the entire time, that it probably would never stop tearing terrifying me. But I was so in love with the art form. I was just so in love with the energy of the room. The connection. Think The thing that drew me the most was how much it felt like the audience was reading the poem for him because the energy was so electric.
Andrea Gibson (00:18:22) – It almost felt like this crowd of people were just pulling it out of him and I just fell in love with the whole thing. And so the next week I went back to the. Lam and I read for the first time and everybody was having a hard time staying in the room because it was so hard to watch me shake that much, I think. But to this day, if I see somebody performing and reading a poem and shaking and the papers just rattling in their hands, it’s just one of the most beautiful things to watch because it’s the image of watching somebody do something they’re terrified of, but they love it too much not to.
Andrea Gibson (00:19:00) – Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:19:01) – What was what was the feeling like for you of that first moment and beyond the physical reaction? Do you have any recollection? I mean, was it a blur to you? Was it this thing where it’s just sort of like it passed? Or do you have any memories of what it actually felt like to be there in that moment for the first time, not only sharing your words, but also knowing that people were witnessing you physically shaking in front of them?
Andrea Gibson (00:19:28) – You know, I was I was so proud of myself, but not in the way that we typically use the word proud.
Andrea Gibson (00:19:37) – I felt this sort of solid love for myself, having nothing to do with the poetry, but with knowing I had done something that I never, ever thought I could do. And not only that, but that it was embarrassing in some ways. And then the joy was so much bigger than the shame that I could almost feel it in my body, you know, dissolving. And I knew I wasn’t going to stop doing it, that it would be a giant part of my life.
Jonathan Fields (00:20:04) – What was the shame about shaking?
Andrea Gibson (00:20:08) – You know, like.
Andrea Gibson (00:20:09) – Mostly it was watching my friends worry about me, you know, like watching your friends. There’s something about that, you know, it’s they should come up with a word for that emotion. But when you’re watching, your loved ones worry about you, that is a mean I’m feeling into it now and it feels like this. It’s a sadness sort of mixed with love and gratitude. But it’s also it’s it’s a hard thing to hold in certain moments.
Jonathan Fields (00:20:37) – Yeah, I know.
Jonathan Fields (00:20:38) – You actually recently wrote a short sentence or two that really landed with me. You wrote The worst thing that ever happened to me was not the worst thing that ever happened to me. Hating myself for it was. Yeah, which kind of speaks to this to a certain extent.
Andrea Gibson (00:20:50) – Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I mean, that certainly wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me that night. But yeah, it’s, um. It’s like, you know, the traumas in our lives, we carry them as this, you know, my therapist, actually, who I never, ever managed to go through a day without quoting, but my therapist, you know, talks about shame as kind of this gift we’re trying to give ourselves. Because by feeling shame, we’re trying to tell ourselves that if we had done something different, that thing wouldn’t have happened. That’s why we say it’s our fault and that’s why we keep hating ourselves for it is because then we have some, you know, sense of control and power over nothing ever happening to us.
Andrea Gibson (00:21:35) – If only I had not done this, you know, done this thing, this was my fault, and it will never happen again because I have control. So shame is also a sort of a sweetness we’re trying to offer ourselves. But there are lots of better routes, I think.
Jonathan Fields (00:21:51) – Yeah, that’s such an interesting frame. It’s almost like it’s a grasping to certainty. Like it’s a telling ourselves that we have some level of not just responsibility, but control over it.
Andrea Gibson (00:22:01) – Yeah, I think more than we more than anything, we want control. And I think I don’t know if it’s it’s cultural or not, but I think that we’re growing to want control more than we want a joy and love. And it’s kind of heartbreaking.
Jonathan Fields (00:22:17) – I don’t disagree with that. And I feel like given the the sort of like nature of just the world we live in these days, that we’re feeling that more than ever, like the more groundless things get around us, I feel like the more we seek certainty and control.
Jonathan Fields (00:22:33) – But I mean, fundamentally, you know, you step into a mic is you saying I am surrendering a certain amount of control because there is just you can prep all you want. You can spend vast amounts of hours writing and then practicing. And I don’t know if you if you do that, but the moment that you step onto a stage in front of a microphone with a live audience plan is over.
Andrea Gibson (00:22:56) – It is.
Andrea Gibson (00:22:56) – Yeah, it is. And it’s also exciting that it’s over because, you know, it’s never stopped being less terrifying for me. I try to tell people that and they don’t believe me, but really it’s never stopped being terrifying. And one thing that I’ve since the pandemic started and all my tours got cancelled, I didn’t realize before this time how closely connected our joy is to our fear. That fear had some sort of aliveness in it or a lot of aliveness in it for me. And also I think that there’s a close connection. Sometimes between excitement and fear, it’s hard to tell the difference again.
Andrea Gibson (00:23:36) – My therapist would say that like, you know, the only difference between fear and excitement is that fear is excitement without the breath. So if you breathe through the fear, then you can turn it into excitement.
Jonathan Fields (00:23:49) – The idea of fear and excitement being really closely tethered also is fascinating to me. I kind of look at it as physiologically. They create a nearly identical response in the body. They’re both anticipatory emotions, but one is anticipating dread and the other is anticipating possibility.
Andrea Gibson (00:24:08) – Yeah, yeah, that’s a great way to look at it. It reminds me of I was seeing this this panic attack specialist for my panic attacks and he was talking about something like that.
Andrea Gibson (00:24:20) – Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:24:23) – And it’s interesting also. So this is never left you the anxiety around getting on stage. And yet as we sit here having this conversation, you are a multi-time, I think four time Denver grand slam winner, winner of the Women of the World poetry slam your before you know in before times basically traveling nonstop and stepping on stages all over the place.
Jonathan Fields (00:24:49) – So what’s interesting to me is that this feeling that you have every time you do it has never gone away. Maybe it’s diminished or you’ve learned how to harness it a bit, but it’s never gone away. And yet it also hasn’t stopped you from both developing to a point where you’re stunning at your craft and. It doesn’t overtake the joy that you feel.
Andrea Gibson (00:25:12) – I mean, sometimes it does, but it also, you know, it adds so much presence because in the beginning, you know, it wasn’t quite the beginning. Think about five years in. I realized that when I was shaking and for the first ten years that I was performing, everywhere I went, somebody would comment on how every poem I read was gasping for air, you know, because I was so nervous. And still, when I perform, people expect me. I don’t think I do that anymore but think people are still. So the gasping has gone away a little bit, but sometimes it’s there. But those I figured out that if in those moments where I’m really terrified, I search for a search for the other feelings in my body and really let them be, it really moves me through it and gets me back to a place of joy.
Andrea Gibson (00:26:06) – So often when I’m feeling terrified, I’ll really notice that there is. There’s a lot of sadness. And if I let myself in the middle of the poem, feel the sadness, then something kind of breaks open, like saying yes to it. But also that fear on stage creates these authentic moments where I just never know what’s going to happen. And I never go on stage feeling like I know what’s going to happen. And I think almost any show I’ve ever done, people have commented that their favorite parts are the moments between the poems when I’m just sort of stumbling around up there and commenting on whatever lightning bolt is running through my body at that moment.
Jonathan Fields (00:26:50) – Yeah, I mean, it’s amazing to be able to sort of like, I don’t even want to I was going to say push through it, but it’s really not pushing through it. It’s working with.
Andrea Gibson (00:26:57) – It. Yeah.
Andrea Gibson (00:26:58) – And then also welcoming it. Welcoming it actually is a tool I’ve, you know, because I struggle with panic attacks and that has been the biggest healing thing for panic attacks for me is that when the fear comes on, what I say to the fear is make this bigger.
Andrea Gibson (00:27:19) – Like give me all the fear you can give me. And there is something about the lack of resistance that just chills out the fear. If I’m welcoming you, if I’m saying, come on, then the fear is like, Oh, okay. And then I notice it’s kind of that wall in my body that breaks down and was, you know, holding in the fear. I don’t know if that makes sense, but surrendering, essentially.
Andrea Gibson (00:27:41) – Yeah, yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:27:42) – Has that actually happened while you were on stage in the middle of performing or is it usually before?
Andrea Gibson (00:27:48) – So typically, you know, I’ve had a few panic attacks on stage. I’ll have I’m learning the difference between anxiety attacks and panic attacks. I have a lot of anxiety attacks on stage. And sometimes it it can come on by something that’s happening in the audience or something that is historically happened in the audience. Like one time I was doing a show in Denver, and in the middle of a poem this man started charging down the center aisle screaming faggot at me.
Andrea Gibson (00:28:15) – And now at a show, if ever somebody gets up in their seat in the middle of a poem, I’ll I’ll start to have an anxiety attack and have to work with it a bit. So typically it’s some sort of something in my memory that’s registering a past thing. And sometimes it could actually be the poem itself. Like my mind when I’m reading the poem, it’s like I’m watching a movie of my life and it’s always new. Even the poem, even though the poem is the same. But I’ll just start watching all of what I’m talking about happen again. And if it’s a hard thing that I’m writing about, then that can also bring it on.
Jonathan Fields (00:28:52) – Yeah, that’s so interesting. So on the one hand, I think a lot of people would look at the process of writing a poem about something that was maybe hard for you in your life as almost cathartic and helping on a processing level. But then the performance of that poem, because of the way that you perform, is to essentially step back into it and almost relive it in a multisensory way can itself become reacquainting with that same state.
Andrea Gibson (00:29:20) – Yeah. And it’s it’s sort of rare for me for that to happen. Like typically it is, I would say 95% of the time or 98% of the time. It is healing. It feels like medicine to speak actually speak something out of my body. It does feel like releasing this sort of stored up dark energy most of the time. And then some moments typically, I think if I’m not listening to myself well enough right before I read the poem on whether or not that’s a good day for me to read it, but I rarely follow my set list just because, you know, I’ll come up with a tentative one, but then I’ll keep looking down at it to see if I can read that particular poem authentically and also in a way that will be supportive of. My own wellness before I read it.
Andrea Gibson (00:30:09) – Yeah, that’s so interesting.
Jonathan Fields (00:30:10) – So it’s almost like you have all the set pieces in your mind, but you never actually it’s almost like you’re choosing the set in real time as you’re performing based on both what’s happening interactively between you and those there, and also just what’s happening with you internally and how you feel like you’d be with that.
Andrea Gibson (00:30:29) – Yeah, because spoken word, you know, I love the art form and also I really hate it if if the poet is not feeling what they’re saying. And so it’s it’s always important to me to be able to read something, perform something that feels honest that day. And sometimes I get really bothered by the confines of that authenticity because sometimes that means I read a poem that I don’t respect the writing of as much, you know? And there’s this other poem with a writing’s way better, and there’s this writer I love in the audience, and I have to read the good, you know, and I just can’t do it because if I don’t read it authentically, it will suck.
Andrea Gibson (00:31:09) – Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:31:10) – I’m curious about this. I know with a lot of when you go to see a band who’s been around for a long time or singer songwriter who’s been around for a long time who has, you know, they have their favorites, you know, the audience favorites that every single time the audience wants to hear it.
Jonathan Fields (00:31:25) – I don’t know whether it’s the same with spoken word, but if it is like and you’re not feeling it that night, like, what do you do?
Andrea Gibson (00:31:32) – Yeah, no, it’s really sad if I’m not feeling it. And there will be a lot of, you know, I’ll try. I’ll actually take a moment on stage if somebody hollers out a poem and see if I could if I could do it. And, you know, sometimes I can and some sometimes I can’t. And then, you know, some of it is, um, you know, some of it is just like, hush, Maybe the poem is about somebody I’m currently in an argument with. And, you know, it happens more commonly because so much of my writing is about social justice and my politics and have changed so much. Like they change constantly. And so I get a lot of requests for poems that I no longer identify with the politics of that piece or there is something in that piece that I feel is hurtful or I’ve been told is hurtful and mean Most of the time in my life.
Andrea Gibson (00:32:22) – If somebody has called me out on a poem being hurtful, I can think of one instance where I disagreed. Almost always somebody is just learn something faster than me and has been kind enough to teach it. So get a lot of requests for poems that I no longer are resonate with the the message of Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:32:42) – When that happens, where you’ve come to a point where you understand, okay, so now with hindsight and with a lot more growth and learning and conversation, you know, like I understand why it doesn’t feel right to perform anymore. Do you ever share that, that reframing or that process with people who are asking about it? Or do you just sort of like pass it by?
Andrea Gibson (00:33:05) – Yeah, I.
Andrea Gibson (00:33:06) – Almost always discuss why on the mic, for example, I have this very old poem that’s one of my first spoken word poems that I ever did that I believe is the language I use in the poem is racist. And I didn’t know that at the time that I was writing it, but I know it now.
Andrea Gibson (00:33:21) – And also I paint my parents in a light that I am no longer comfortable with. It’s one of the only poems I’ve ever written where I wrote mad and I stayed mad and I let that poem be in the world. And it’s just not how I view the human experience anymore in regards to these people are bad, these people are good. And so I’ll just break all that down on stage typically.
Jonathan Fields (00:33:48) – Yeah, that’s amazing. So it’s sort of like you turn it into a learning experience for everybody as well. And also, I mean, it’s really powerful modeling. I feel like for people who are up and coming and and almost feel like, well, you know, like you are a you’re a creative person in the world. You’re an artist or performer, that your body of work is your body of work. And it should stand and be public regardless of what harm we understand it may cause. Now, with the benefit of really changing and evolving and deeper understanding. And I think it’s fascinating modeling to say, well, no, actually, you know, like we need to grow with the times and certain things are not appropriate to be out there anymore because when they are, they continue to do harm.
Jonathan Fields (00:34:32) – And I never intended harm. And now that I know it was doing harm, I have to do something about it. And maybe we can all look at the work that we’re doing in that way.
Andrea Gibson (00:34:41) – Yeah. And it’s a I think it’s I mean, I’ve come to call it a blessing of being in the public eye a little bit where if you’re going to do something, if you do something that hurts someone, like, you know, you’re not going to go without knowing it, somebody will you know, somebody will tell you they’re far smarter people than me reading my poems and and learned and and I learn a lot from them. And so. Yeah, that’s that’s a gift guess to to know that if you do something wrong, somebody is going to tell you. Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:35:14) – And especially because you know, so much of your work really is focused around gender norms, social reform, LGBTQ issues, compassion. And so you are speaking to the the points of intersection in our life where we feel it the most.
Jonathan Fields (00:35:29) – Yeah. And, and, and these days, sadly, tend to be most polarized as a society. And I feel like a lot of I’m curious about this. I feel like when I when I hear you perform, I hear the words and but underneath the words, what I feel is a call for compassion and a recognition of shared humanity almost across any of what the words are.
Andrea Gibson (00:35:53) – Thank you for saying that. I’ve always felt like, you know, I’ve said for a number of years that the words and spoken word are not the most important thing. I don’t know if that’s what you’re saying, but it seems like it’s the energy of with which you’re approaching something. And so I think I’ve failed a lot with my words and hopefully even in those failures showed up in some way with my heart. And hopefully that can be heard by folks.
Andrea Gibson (00:36:22) – Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:36:24) – You have made a really interesting decision. Also, I don’t know when it was. I know it was at least a chunk of yours back to take pure spoken word and start to blend music with it.
Jonathan Fields (00:36:37) – Often live music that’s being performed at the same time. I’m wondering whether when you started doing that, there was any pushback. I’m wondering whether in the culture of spoken word, there’s sort of an ethos that says it’s got to be based on the purity of the words and one person and a microphone versus, you know, having this fuller experience, sonic experience around it.
Andrea Gibson (00:37:02) – Yeah, there was pushback from lots of people. I think a lot of spoken word artists hated it. For myself, I think that there were times that I also was constantly arguing with it. You know, if I go and hear a poet, this is not going to, you know, do much do much good for my career to say this on here. But if I go in here, a poet, I want to hear them without music, you know. But I it is what I have the most fun with. And, you know, I started touring clubs and stuff. You know, the the owners of the place, they had no idea what they were booking like.
Andrea Gibson (00:37:37) – They thought they were booking comedy or, you know, they just weren’t used to having a poet. And so I was often they’d insist that, you know, there be a musical opener. So I started making tons of friends who were musicians, and I just loved to make art with other people and collaborate. And and that’s how it got started. I’m like, Oh, if we’re both going to be on the stage, let’s do something together. But yeah, there’s a piece I may share today that I would not have written that piece if I thought that it was going to live on its own. It was written to live with music, and I’ve just loved making art with other people. But sure, yeah, I don’t think everybody loves it. And then I think some other people prefer it because they get I don’t know, maybe they’re just not big poetry fans. I’m not sure. But it also, if you do it right and I’ve done it wrong a lot, but if you do it right, it can really add to the emotion of of the piece.
Jonathan Fields (00:38:32) – Yeah, I mean, it’s fascinating to me. I have always thought about those little decisions. When you decide to add something into something which some people would consider like, well, this is the pure form of the art. And when you add this in, you know, does it amplify it? Does it, does it give something new and better, or does it in some way bastardize it? In a very past life, I was actually a yoga teacher and I was one of sort of like the early people in New York City who started bringing music into my classes. And while some people got it and enjoyed it, other people were like, Wow, this is the whole quote, hybrid, you know, like yoga teaching thing is completely bastardized what it’s about. And I would say to them, well, yes, end. You know, if you hold the view that it’s got to be only about pure silence in the words, I can understand that and I respect that. And at the same time, if you look at every healing tradition in the history of humankind, they all involve both incantation and rhythm and some other form of music.
Jonathan Fields (00:39:39) – And it’s pretty modern that we’ve separated them. So it’s so easy. Like I’m fascinated by this lens of how people and also who are the arbiters of what is right or wrong or the best way to do it.
Andrea Gibson (00:39:50) – Yeah, that’s interesting you bring that up because my partner is a writer and also yoga teacher and she has she plays music in her class and she puts so much thought into what she’s going to play in there. And I will I will sit down with her yoga playlist and write to them all day long. And and I’ve done both yoga with a without, you know, music. And for me, their different experiences and but also beautiful in their own way. And lately I’ve been preferring yoga with music.
Jonathan Fields (00:40:22) – Yeah, I agree. I think they’re just different. Yeah. You know I’ll go to I love sometimes, you know, like the same with meditation. I’ll meditate just in pure silence sometimes. But then sometimes I just kind of want something layered into it and it just. It’s different.
Jonathan Fields (00:40:35) – It gives me something different. Yeah. Um, so there are two pieces that you’re going to share with us. I believe if you could set up the first one, tell me a little bit about it and then I’d love to talk about it a little bit more and then we can maybe do the same for the second.
Andrea Gibson (00:40:48) – Sure. Yeah. So this is.
Andrea Gibson (00:40:50) – A poem titled Homesick.
Andrea Gibson (00:40:52) – A Plea for Our Planet. And the Music with the piece is done by Gregory Alan Isakov, who lives by me here in Colorado, who I’ve toured with in the past. And when all tours got canceled, Gregory went back to being a farmer, which he has been throughout his musician life as well. So this was a sweet collaboration, and I’m going to play it for you. In the fifth grade, I won the science fair with a project on climate change that featured a paper maché ozone layer with a giant hole to which a paper mache sun burned the skin of a Barbie in a bikini on a lawn chair.
Andrea Gibson (00:41:32) – Glaciers melting like ice cubes in her lemonade. It was 1987, in a town that could have invented red hats. But the school principal gave me a gold ribbon and not a single bit of attitude about my radical political stance, because neither he nor I knew it was a political stance. Science had not yet been fully framed as leftist propaganda. The president did not have a Twitter feed starving the world of facts. I spent that summer, as I had every summer before, racing to the forest behind my house down the path my father called the old logging road to a meadow thick with raspberry bushes whose thorns were my very first heroes because they did nothing with their life but protect what was sweet. Sundays I went to church, but struggled to call it prayer. If it didn’t leave grass stains on my knees. Couldn’t call it truth if it didn’t come with a dare to crawl into the cave by the creek and stay there until somebody counted all the way to 100. As a kid, I thought 100 was the biggest number there was.
Andrea Gibson (00:42:34) – My mother absolutely blew my mind the day she said 101 100. And what? Billionaires never grow out of doing that same math with years. Can’t conceive of counting past their own lifespans. Believe the world ends the day they do. Why are the keys to our future in the hands of those who have the longest commutes from their heads to their hearts? Whose greed is the smog that keeps us from seeing our own nature in the sweetness we are here to protect? Do you know sometimes when gathering nectar bees fall asleep in flowers? Do you know fish are so sensitive? Snowflakes sound like fireworks when they land on the water. Do you know whales will follow their injured friends to shore up and taking their own lives. So do not let their loved ones be alone when they die. None of this is poetry. It is just the earth being who she is. In spite of us putting barcodes on the sea, in spite of us acting like Edison invented daylight, Dawn presses her blushing face to my window, asks me if I know the records in my record collection.
Andrea Gibson (00:43:40) – Looks like the insides of trees. Yes, I say. There was nothing you have ever grown that isn’t music. You were the bamboo in Coltrane’s saxophone. Read the mulberries that fed the silkworms that made the slippers for the ballet, the pine that built the loom, that wove the hemp for Frida Kahlo’s canvas, the roses that dyed her paint, hoping her brush could bleed for her body, who more than the earth has bled for us. How do we not mold our hearts? After the first spruce tree, who raised her hand and begged to be cut into piano keys so the elephants could keep their tusks? The earth is the right side of history. Is the canyon my friend ran to when no one else he knew would echo his chosen name. Back to him is the wind that wailed through 1956 Alabama until the poplar tree carved itself into Dr. King’s pulpit is the volcano that poured the mercury into the thermometer held under the tongue of Italy. Though she knew our fever was why her canals were finally running clear, she took our temperature, told us we were too hot even after we’d spent decades claiming she was not our hands held to her burning forehead.
Andrea Gibson (00:44:57) – We insisted she was fine. Well, wildfires turn redwoods to toothpicks, readying the teeth of the apocalypse. She sent a smoke signal all the way from California to New York City. Ash fell from the sky. Do you know the mountains of California used to look like they’d been set on fire because they were so covered in monarch butterflies? Do you know Monarch butterflies migrate 3000 miles using only the fuel they stored as caterpillars in the cocoon. We need so much less than we take. We owe so much more than we give. Squirrels plant thousands of trees every year just from forgetting where they left their acorns. If we aim to be just half as good as one of the Earth’s mistakes, we could turn so much around, our living would be seethed. The future would have roots. We would cast nothing from the garden of itself. And we would make the thorns. Proud.
Jonathan Fields (00:46:08) – Hmm.
Jonathan Fields (00:46:09) – I want to stand up and applause.
Andrea Gibson (00:46:12) – That would be nice. I hope I get to see some applause sometime in the next two years.
Andrea Gibson (00:46:18) – Applause is such a sweet communal thing. I love it.
Andrea Gibson (00:46:22) – Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:46:23) – And I mean, how oddly poetic that the reason that you can is because just things are happening in our planet which are changing. Things which are keeping us separate, which are isolating us. But, you know, bigger picture, when you write a piece like that, which is deeply compelling, deeply moving, very focused in the messages that it’s sending. I’m curious whether you are intentional about being completely honest, letting it flow through you, writing something that feels real and raw and pure to yourself and at the same time wanting to invite the greatest number of people into the conversation. So that because this is no poem like that, is also a call to action. And the more people you can have feel it and respond to it beyond being personally moved, the more likely they are to act on it.
Andrea Gibson (00:47:18) – Yeah, that’s a.
Andrea Gibson (00:47:19) – I think that’s the value of art that, you know, I don’t think people’s minds change very quickly, but people’s hearts can change in an instant.
Andrea Gibson (00:47:27) – And I think that’s something that I love about spoken word. But all art, it can change your heart in an instant. Then your mind catches up over time. But I don’t think I’ve had a poem that I’ve written so directly and a long time, and there have been a lot of I’ve done a lot of, for lack of a better word, like dancing in my poems lately, where you’ll hear with the next poem I share, It’s nothing. So like you said, direct it. Then with this I really wrote it hoping that it would do something like hoping that folks who hadn’t previously had a relationship with the Earth could see how the Earth is everywhere. You know, I have a lot of friends who live in the city and they have a far different relationship with the Earth or even thoughts about the earth than I do. And I was writing that, you know, wanting to reach them because those folks are, you know, some of the greatest activists I know and doing so much and, you know, sort of writing in the direction of of their hearts.
Jonathan Fields (00:48:30) – Yeah. I think it also brings up one of the things that is truly unique about poetry in the context of poetry that has a bigger message, that is speaking to issues of the day, and that is that when you’re also effectively building a case with a poem.
Andrea Gibson (00:48:48) – Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:48:49) – And inviting people to do something about it. When you contrast doing that through powerfully written verse versus laying out graphs and charts and statistics, it lands. It’s almost like, you know, when you start to quantify the arguments. I think for some people the rational brains is okay, I get it. But for a lot of people, they a get defensive and then B start to say, okay, so here are specific things that I can find counter evidence to refute. But when you deliver the same thing in verse and it speaks to senses and emotion and story, it’s like it bypasses all of that and it just lands so deeply in a person’s soul that the impulse to just immediately convert it in some way. I feel like it bypasses that.
Jonathan Fields (00:49:42) – I wonder if you feel something similar.
Andrea Gibson (00:49:44) – I do. And I think that’s a lot of my draw to the art form. And I remember learning this lesson a lot at the beginning of the Iraq war. I had a friend in the war and I remember reading all these statistics and then trying to write poems that, you know, to do something that were full of statistics. And and the statistics were heart wrenching and overwhelming and disgusting. But I learned in that process a lot of years ago now that to tell the story of one person would often reach people more. You tell the story of, you know, there was the soldier who had come back from Iraq and he had been wearing the dog tags of, for lack of a better word, like of soldiers that he was fighting against. And his family had thought he was wearing his own dog tags, but he had been wearing the dog tags of someone he had killed and ended up killing himself. And that story, I remember thinking, God, we could say numbers forever.
Andrea Gibson (00:50:51) – And there is so much there that is my can’t I can’t talk about it right, right now without getting upset. So yeah. To you can’t argue with the story of somebodys life. You can’t argue that, you know, bees fall asleep. Been flowers. I’ve ever since I read that fact, I it doesn’t, you know, it doesn’t leave me. I’m just. The sweetness is overwhelming.
Andrea Gibson (00:51:18) – Yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:51:19) – You brought a second piece today as well. And this is another very different but equally powerful. He set it up for us.
Andrea Gibson (00:51:28) – Yeah, I will. And I recorded this in my basement and in the beginning of the pandemic and. And the music for this piece is done by an artist named Chris Perico, who is a close friend of mine. And and I wrote this actually about a dear friend of mine named Buddy Wakefield, who is one of my favorite poets on Earth, and he’s one of my best friends. But he really made me angry. One day I got in this. We was so mad.
Andrea Gibson (00:51:57) – I don’t know if I’ve ever been more angry at a friend. And in the middle of that anger, I decided to start writing, which I never do. I got this advice in college that you should never write in them unless you have some distance from a thing so you can see it clearly. But I began writing with the intention of of shifting my anger to a place of gratitude. And I got about a few lines into this poem and just loved him so much. I could not believe how quickly my anger shifted to appreciation. So it’s called a year of no grudges.
Andrea Gibson (00:52:39) – I think almost everyone tries hard to do good and just finds out too late. They should have tried softer. I’ve never in my whole life been levelheaded. But the older I get, the more level hearted. And I think we make gods who look like us for a reason. I think in spite of it all, we trust we can be believed in. When I don’t believe in myself, I try to remember. I walked on water like 700 times in Maine in the dead of winter.
Andrea Gibson (00:53:11) – Where I come from, you can drive a pickup truck from one side of the lake to the other, and people have an unusually large amount of missing teeth and fingers, but you can still sell them whitening strips and wedding rings like crazy. Because where I come from, beauty is in the eye of anyone who sees what’s missing but can’t stop pointing to what’s still there. If there is no definition for love yet, I think that’s a good one. I’m writing this on a day You did me wrong. I’m just a half a second outside the furnace of my rage. And I’m trying to focus the steeple of my attention on all the teeth you still have. Instead of the ones I know you’d happily knock out yourself if it would keep you from biting anyone again. And that’s how mistakes work. If you’re loving the right kind of people and you are the right kind of people, you’ve walked on water so many times, you know, grace is slippery. There’s literally nothing anyone is more likely to fall from some sound advice.
Andrea Gibson (00:54:06) – I give myself like twice a second wear knee pads on the way to your ego. Andrea Being right is boring. Rightness comforts only the tiniest parts of us. And when it comes to hearts, I want always to be a size queen. Because that’s how I found you. Lifting the spirits of everyone around you like hot air balloons just from the way you burn. To be a better person today than you’d been the day before. Burning to be better as my favorite quality on anyone. And you are on fire like a gay men’s choir singing the halftime show of a football game. I have been dancing in the end zone since the day you taught me how to break. Every promise I have made to my pain Taught me my wounds will never, ever be bigger than I am. Thank goodness for you. Champion of the unkillable. Yes, Dandelion refusing to be picked for the bouquet. Five minutes into our first conversation, you knew I could take a punch better than I could take a compliment. And you talk to me about that once and bam, I was angel gossip.
Andrea Gibson (00:55:11) – There were God rumors flying around my suddenly unhappy head. I love you because you never had a mirror face. Because the truth is nothing you could ever try to fake. So sometimes you look like a human scribble, like a three year old is colored. You in like you got too many feelings to stay inside the lines of your own skin. But that friend, that is the masterpiece I love you because we both showed up to kindness tryouts with notes from the school nurse that said we were too hurt to participate, but we learned how wrong we were. And weren’t those the best days when we learned how wrong we were and so got to grow into our goodness throwing the peach pits of our old selves into the garden to grow. Sweetness, sugar, I pick you to be the captain of my chosen family tree. I pick you to throw the party when I leave this world knowing I’m going to run death like a stop sign and keep going. I pick you to finish all my half written poems. Even though you’re terrible at writing poetry, I pick you to finish this one.
Andrea Gibson (00:56:22) – Especially this list of compliments. You’d be a hypocrite not to take. So take it before I remember. I’m mad at you, asshole. But Lord, only human on the whole planet. Who knows what I mean when I. When I say God, I mean everyone down here who understands that when I get to heaven, I will refuse to call it heaven. If who put me through hell isn’t there?
Jonathan Fields (00:57:27) – Hmm.
Jonathan Fields (00:57:29) – What? What goes through you when you hear yourself perform that? Because it’s kind of watching your face as you are listening.
Andrea Gibson (00:57:40) – Yeah.
Andrea Gibson (00:57:42) – I was actually feeling. What was I feeling? I was. I was feeling sad. Really? Um, but I was also. It was one of those sad, you know, I often have a hard time deciphering in my body between sadness and love. They intermingle too much for me. But I was feeling sad about, you know, the grudges that are so easy to hold. And I wrote it before the pandemic. But when I decided to share it, you know, thinking that this pandemic might last a year, it probably will be longer.
Andrea Gibson (00:58:15) – But the idea of this being a year of no grudges, like if you’re holding a grudge against somebody right now, it’s a really good time to let it go, not just for their sake, but it’s such a burden to carry. Like bitterness is so painful. But what was hitting me and listening to it was just how easy it was. It was so simple to move from that anger, which I didn’t think I was going to let go for months in just a matter of minutes to appreciation and yeah, I’ve heard somebody said once, like, the only thing we have control over in this life is where we put our attention and to just shift my attention in that moment was really lovely and it released me from, you know, anger is not fun to carry. And yeah, I love that dude so much. And and one of my favorite lines of it is you’re terrible at writing poetry just because he’s just such an exceptional poet.
Jonathan Fields (00:59:10) – Just sneaking in a quick little.
Andrea Gibson (00:59:12) – Dig there.
Jonathan Fields (00:59:15) – Um, yeah.
Jonathan Fields (00:59:17) – I mean, I go back to what I shared earlier, which is I’m listening to the words, but what I’m hearing is, is just a feeling is a mood is a vibe. And, and the message I get, but it kind of just comes in. I know you have, um, you said elsewhere, maybe more than a poet. I’m kind of a public feeler. I just get up there and feel everything all over the place.
Andrea Gibson (00:59:40) – Yeah, yeah. Wish and wish. Not so much. Sometimes it’d be nice to have a few days without so many feelings. That was like a diagnosis a psychiatrist gave me once. Like, the problem is, you feel too much. And I’m like, Yes, I know that. But I also don’t know if I want to get rid of it.
Jonathan Fields (00:59:59) – Yeah, I mean, and that actually is a curiosity. Do you feel like, um. Along with feeling so much and so deeply. You know that. Without that, there’s no work, there’s no creativity, there’s no you know, and I guess maybe the deeper question, what I’m really trying to ask you is because I’ve seen so many artists, so many people who are in this sort of generative space where something comes out of the depths of their soul and turns into beautiful painting.
Jonathan Fields (01:00:32) – Words, music. Um. Attach themselves to the notion that. Not as feeling, but suffering must always be there for them to to do work at the level that they want to be able to offer. And I wonder how that all ends with you.
Andrea Gibson (01:00:52) – Yeah, I’ve thought about that so much. Firstly, I think there’s a difference between feeling, you know, harder feelings like grief and terror. There’s a difference between that and suffering. To me, those are two different things. Like you can. You can feel sad, but the suffering comes, I think, with like having a ton of desire to get rid of that sadness. For me, at least, that’s where a lot of the pain comes in. If I’m like, if I just let the sadness be, it typically moves out of my body more quickly. So allowing it to exist helps it move. But as far as the narrative, I think it’s something that is permeated. A spoken word a lot is that you can’t write a good poem unless you’re suffering and or unless you’re in pain.
Andrea Gibson (01:01:42) – And I don’t I don’t believe that at all. And I wish for artists like no poems ever. No, no, no art ever. If it means you get to, you know, have your life full of love and joy and gratitude. So I’d like to do away with that narrative honestly, because I’ve seen it impact young people who almost feel like they don’t have permission to be joyful if their sadness created so much art. I don’t actually think the pain is where art comes from. I think it comes from. Honesty and we may have not created as enough space to celebrate art that is that is blissful, you know, or that it’s almost like turning a sock inside out, that sadness. The second is like it goes inside out and I can’t really explain. I know that image might not make sense, but as soon as something becomes art, then it’s it’s important to recognize that sometimes it almost immediately turns to you could turn immediately grief to joy. Yeah. You have so many different thoughts about this, but don’t know if everybody knows.
Andrea Gibson (01:02:48) – But in the spoken word, you know, there are a lot it’s a very young art form. And in my opinion, I would love to see more happy poems, more celebratory poems and more people wanting to hear those types of homes just because it’s such, you know, it’s our life, too. And I don’t want artists to ever feel like they have to, you know, live their entire lives so miserable.
Jonathan Fields (01:03:16) – Yeah. And I think that is. Probably a pretty common experience in spoken word, but just across nearly every art form. And I agree with you, I, I think we all have to experience life. And some of that involves hard things and tough things, and some of that involves pain.
Andrea Gibson (01:03:36) – Yeah, but.
Jonathan Fields (01:03:37) – We don’t have to. Invited. And also, I loved the frame that you brought, which is that the suffering comes from an almost maniacal attempt to rid ourselves of it rather than acknowledging that this this is a part of it all. And I didn’t ask for it, but it’s here.
Jonathan Fields (01:03:55) – So now what do I do with this? How do I be with it in a way that’s in some way I can find meaning in it? And if it goes away and if there are things I can do to help, great. But. And if not, then at least I can understand it and transmuted into something positive.
Andrea Gibson (01:04:11) – Yeah. And I also don’t ever want to deny like or say don’t feel grief. We all like to be human is to grieve and to is you know to love is to grieve. And to be joyful is to, you know, be sad when the joy goes. So all of it exists. There just tends to be sometimes. I think that a lot of what’s fueling art is the grief. And I just want to give artists permission to or faith that joy can do it too, you know, just because I do know, I mean, when I feel into and it’s not just artist, it’s activists as well. Like my activist community just is like hearts are so heavy right now everywhere, all over the world.
Andrea Gibson (01:04:57) – And to offer yourself to to be reminding yourself that you deserve joy and to nurture that and to take time to do that and that it also will create its own, you know, beautiful things.
Jonathan Fields (01:05:13) – I love that. And it feels a good place for us to come full circle as well. So sitting here in this container of Good Life project, if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?
Andrea Gibson (01:05:24) – To live a good life? Oh, to be connected, to love, to celebrate, to feel deeply and to continuously be becoming. To welcome the becoming and the shift that, you know, hopefully in our last breaths here where I want to in my last breath think, but there’s more I wanted to become and then hopefully the others, you know, it’s like running death, like a stop sign and you just keep on going and keep keep becoming.
Jonathan Fields (01:05:53) – Mm.
Andrea Gibson (01:05:54) – Thank you. Yeah.
Andrea Gibson (01:05:55) – Thank you so much for having me.
Jonathan Fields (01:05:58) – Hey, before you leave, if you love this episode, safe bet you’ll also enjoy the conversation we had with Morgan Harper Nichols about the power of language to connect people.
Jonathan Fields (01:06:06) – You’ll find a link to Morgan’s episode in the show notes. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven second favor, and share it maybe on social or by text or by email? Even just with one person. Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action. That’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.