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Berlin in English

Screaming is healing

An interview with North American spoken word artist Andrea Gibson, performing May 30 at Postbahnhof

Andrea Gibson

29.05. – Poet and activist Andrea Gibson will have been touring the US for weeks before finally crossing the ocean to visit to Europe. The award winning artist, who prefers the gender-neutral pronoun ‘they’ over ‘he’ or ‘she’, is one of the biggest names in the North American Spoken World Scene. In May Gibson will be in Berlin for a day to share their art. We sent them a questionnaire to be answered somewhere on the road between Brooklyn and Fairfield.

You are one of the most famous poets in the US – how do you deal with all the pressure, the expectations, the proposals, the people who believe to know you and those who misinterpret you? I'm not sure how to answer this – other than to say I am most often rooted in gratitude when it comes to my writing life and the people whose open hearts have supported me throughout my career. I am awed and stunned every time I step on a stage to read poems and there are people there who have come to hear, and I am consistently learning from those who listen and feel and show up to their own wild purpose on this planet.

Have you been in Berlin before? I have been to Germany, but not Berlin. It's a place I have been wanting to visit for a long time. I hear that the city is incredible and I am expecting to have a hard time leaving.

The German spoken word scene is mostly white, straight and (cis-)male. What can we learn about diversity from the US scene? I think it's true that the US spoken word scene is very diverse, rich with the stories of many underrepresented voices, but there is still much work that can be done to create more welcoming stages and community – here and elsewhere – and a fervent commitment from the white cis-male population to building safer spaces is imperative.  

Give me five reasons why it is important to speak out loud.
1. Maya Angelou said “An unspoken poem is a half finished poem.”
2. Screaming is healing.
3. The truth isn't often quiet.  
4. To comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.
5. To remind each other we are not alone

Are there any to remain silent? I think it's important to note that not everyone is safe to speak their truth. It is privilege that allows me to speak what I speak on stage without fear for my safety. Many people do not have the privilege. Sometimes silence is survival.

Your poems are very intimate. How much can you relinquish without loosing your own boundaries?
We all create our safety in different ways. I personally feel more safe the more that I reveal. The more protected I am, the more terrified I am.

How important is gender in your life? The first time I heard the word gender queer I thought that is absolutely me. So I don't identify as trans, I identify as gender queer, my gender has shifted and changed every year of my life and I expect gender will always be a dominant conversation in my world.

Is there a poem that you never want to perform again? Which and why? I don't want to say the names for the fear that someone will Google them. My politics and my social lens have changed over the years and I have written a number of pieces in the past that I find problematic and hurtful now. I would never want to speak them on a stage again.

Which role does music play in your writing, in your life? My writing has always been fueled by rhythm. I rarely write these days without wondering how the piece I am working on might work in collaboration with music.

Interview by Tania Witte

Andrea Gibson, 30.05., 20:00, Postbahnhof


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