"My mouth is a fire escape.
The words coming out
don't care that they are naked.
There is something burning in there."
—Andrea Gibson, "The Madness Vase"
World renowned and multi-award winning spoken word artist, author, and poet Andrea Gibson will be the featured guest at the "Reimagining Your Story through Poetry" workshop hosted by Johns Hopkins University at 2 p.m. on Thursday, May 27. Hosted by Roshni Rao, director of PHutures, and co-sponsored by the Life Design Lab at the university's Homewood campus, the session is open to all staff, faculty, and student members of the JHU community. The conversation will focus on the importance of and strategies for honestly and authentically crafting narratives through artful self-expression.
Gibson is the author of six books. Lord of the Butterflies (Button Poetry), which sold almost 20,000 copies in its debut year, was the winner of the Independent Publisher's Award in 2019 as well as a Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist. Take Me With You (Penguin, 2018), an illustrated collection of Gibson's most memorable quotes, was also a Goodreads Finalist. In 2019, they co-authored their first ever non-fiction book, How Poetry Can Change Your Heart (Chronicle Books). In addition to their publishing accolades, Andrea has released seven full-length albums, combining their socially active spoken word with musical collaborations. They are the winner of the first ever Women's World Poetry Slam Championship (2008) and frequent World Poetry Slam Finalist.
Rao, who herself has been writing and performing poetry and spoken word since 2018, is particularly excited for the JHU community to engage with Gibson, who uses they/them pronouns, as well as each other, in order to build confidence and reimagine their worlds as they share their narratives. The need is particularly great after the trauma caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
"Our stories in the past year have been shaped by, not just COVID, but racial injustice and violence. For me, writing about it the past year has been healing and transformative," Rao explains. "Andrea has written many pieces that are stellar, I think maybe the one that stands out the most is a piece called 'The Nutritionist' where they explore mental health, depression, and identity. They do so with such a phenomenal vulnerability and compassion that it inspires me to embrace my own vulnerability and be completely unapologetic with my own identities and traumas."
Gibson will spend the first part of the day Thursday with Rao in an unscripted Vision Chats event titled "Poetry Reconsidered," which is open to all audiences to attend. From there they will move to the workshop session at 2 p.m., which is only open to members of the JHU community. Register for "Poetry Reconsidered" or register for the "Reimagining Your Story Through Poetry" workshop online.