Poet Andrea Gibson performed at the Century Club of Scranton (612 Jefferson Ave.) on Saturday, May 18, to a full house of fans; many had travelled the kind of distance Scrantonians travel to cities like New York and Philadelphia.
The Century Club, just a year shy of celebrating its namesake anniversary, has brought many legendary acts to Scranton. President Dottie Bosley invited Gibson to sign the Club's guestbook, which boasts autographs of such legendary poets as Robert Frost and Langston Hughes. Andrea Gibson has made her way up the ranks of her poetic predecessors, rattling the spoken word scene, taking the first winning title of the Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, selling more books than any other author in the Write Bloody Publishing crew, continuously releasing CDs, and reaching an audience ranging from the school playground to the frontlines of protests to sold-out theaters.
The evening began with local talent. Andrea Talarico McGuigan's breath flowed like the ocean lapping at the shore, pulling the sand beneath the waves of her poignant poetry, which included a new piece she premiered entitled “Inheritance.” Eric Wilson's cadence chimed quickly, like the pages of a flip book, or a baseball card in the spokes of a well-loved bicycle, as he recounted childhood memories and spun a tale of two girls.
Wilson's latter poem is joined by the work of many poets in attendance of Saturday night's event in Unidentified No. 8, a zine released by Breaking Ground Poets. BGP and Tunkhannock teacher Katie Wisnosky were responsible for bringing Andrea Gibson – and other spoken word artists, including Jon Sands and Lauren Zuniga – to the region for performances and workshops. Wisnosky hosted a meet and greet for her students and the Boulder, Colo., poet.
“There are so many high school students here tonight,” exclaimed Andrea Gibson. “Seeing people getting excited about poetry – that just didn't happen when I was in high school.”
Gibson appreciates the value of community-centric cultural events and making poetry accessible to a wide audience.
“I'm just traveling to all of these places and getting to see young people just really enthusiastic about poetry, and that's what's got me excited the most.”
After the meet and greet, Gibson was feeling comfortable – a little too comfortable, she confessed: “I should start with a poem that makes me nervous. They all make me nervous, so I'll just start talking.”
She opened with “I Sing the Body Electric, Especially When My Power's Out,” an audience favorite poem that often makes the top of her setlist and a self-proclaimed love poem to her body.
Many of Gibson's poems muster images of the body and raise questions of gender queer identity, family relations, social tolerance, civil rights, and other social issues, often woven into gut-wrenching verses. Gibson, whose CDs of piano and violin accompanied poetry, also includes pre-recorded music in her live shows. The songs – sometimes entering at a striking line break, sometimes kicking off the poem – always have the affect of a cinematic score, striking supplementary chords in time with Gibson's stunning lines, captivating gestures, and overall stage presence.
Gibson performed a mix of old and new material during her headlining set, including an emphatically delivered “Prism,” a rounded, bouncing “Blue Blanket,” and a tear-jerking “Sleeping” from her latest book, “The Madness Vase.” Gibson admitted she had changed lines in “Swingset,” from 2005 CD “Bullets and Windchimes,” after realizing their judgmental nature didn't fit the spirit of the poem.
“I'm always learning,” she explained. “You change – your mind and your heart, they change form week to week.”
One thing that won't change is Gibson's love for Squash, her shaggy little rescue dog. Gibson's love poem to her dog left everyone in the crowd – including Gibson's friend and D.C. Slam Champ Natalie E. Illum – smiling.