Hear, Here! A Night with Andrea Gibson
Hear, Here! was the chant, and sponsor, of the night at Ivywild School in Colorado Springs as female poets Susan Peiffer, Nicole Wilkinson, Denali Gillaspie, and legend Andrea Gibson graced the stage of the old school auditorium. Gibson said that she had performed at a church once, expecting it to have been overtaken by artists and converted like the Ivywild School, but it was just a regular church.
Self-styled cynic and revolutionary poet Andrea Gibson has received accolades for her notable performances in international venues, but she is mainly recognized for her work with local forums, such as last night’s performance at the refurbished Ivywild School, a place best described in brief as “a flourishing communal atmosphere linking commerce and community with gathering spaces, local cuisine, education, art and gardens.“
Gibson’s fearless performance and well-spun lyrics put poetry into motion, like Van Gogh’s paintings and Schumann’s concertos. Her truths hit hard, leaving nary a dry eye in the audience, but her passion for the word superseded her dread of crowds and public speaking. Or, as one online magazine misquoted, her “fear of crows.”
Gibson was joined by talented poets such as Colorado College (CC) student Nicole Wilkinson, whose brave body poetry carried the “naked” truth of self love and self-actualization, which could apply to any man or woman in the audience, especially since the majority of attendees were also CC students. Though her performance was short, it packed quite a few soul-punches, especially in her tribute to those left behind after the suicide of CC student Emily Spiegel. Wilkinson asked the questions with her well-smithed words: why are we so afraid to love ourselves, be kind to ourselves, and beat out the negativity that begs us to give in to self-doubt?
Susan Peiffer hosted the evening with adorable puns and fierce poems, ranging from topics of feminine power and the loss of her parents to abuse, shame, and recovery, capping each poet’s performance with both light and dark tones. Her work with Hear Here Open Mic & Poetry Slam and the Cottonwood Center for the Arts may have brought her to the stage, where she has encouraged so many others to find their voices, but she earned her place with Gibson and the other “raw” words executed on the stage last night as she beat on her chest and delivered rapid-fire, alliterative poetry and declared, “Welcome to the natural order!”
Denali Gillaspie, a former CC student and now professor of slam poetry in Tulsa, Oklahoma both spoke and sang her way through a very country-like expose of her work with students from diverse backgrounds, underscoring her experience as a woman trying to lift the female and human condition from despair to hope. The lyrics “Filling a cup with tears / There’s better ways to waste your time” might have best defined her acoustic performance.
The real gem of the evening was, naturally, the main performer, Andrea Gibson. An internationally ranked and celebrated poet, Gibson resides in Boulder, Colorado and is coming to the end of an eight-month tour across the United States. Her soulmate and “heart,” Squash, was absent from the performance, but the lovely dog’s spirit was not, and neither were all the other influences of joy and despair that have touched Gibson’s life over the years. At the beginning of the performance, she promised that each poem would become progressively less heart-wrenching, but it was likely a promise she never meant to keep. Some of her words carried hope for the hopeless, like “You stay here with me / Live, Live, Live,” from “The Madness Vase/The Nutritionist,” but she also shared perspectives of burned LGBT soldiers in “Soldiers of Death/Victims of Hate,” and feelings connected to a soldier she knew named Eli: “Not all casualties of war come home in a body bag” (from “For Eli”). She discussed coming out to her parents and dealing with every type of cure for her “to be well-adjusted to a sick society.” Her bravery and resilience sang out through the night, though she only literally sang once. Watching these women perform, speaking their hearts (“words will never desert you, Susan,” as Peiffer said) was inspirational, moving, and motivating. Watching the air burn with voices meant to be stifled, begging for the audience to “become,” made everyday life seem like a farce. Moving forward with intention proves much more meaningful after spending an evening with Nicole Wilkinson, Susan Peiffer, Denali Gillaspie, and the stunning Andrea Gibson.