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May 10, 2017

Poets Andrea Gibson and Megan Falley spark deeper dialogue in their performances at Iron Horse Music Hall

(Aakanksha Gupta/Collegian)

NORTHAMPTON — Andrea Gibson made another appearance at the Iron Horse Music Hall Wednesday April 12, this time accompanied by fellow poet Megan Falley.

Gibson is a poet and spoken word artist whose works cover a broad range of topics including bullying, sexuality, privilege, love, gender, war, class and mental illness.

Their most recent collection “Pansy,” is arguably the most political yet. They had been planning a new collection about love, but have put that aside to work on other things in light of the current political climate.

Falley is a poet whose work explores issues related to body positivity, gender and LGBTQIA+ topics. Falley has gained recognition for her two published collections “Redhead and the Slaughter King” and “After the Witch Hunt,” which is the winner of the 2015 Tired Hearts Competition and has received over a million views on YouTube, just to name a few of her accomplishments.

Both poets’ set lists involved controversial topics, laughing, crying, and sitting in shocked silence together with the audience. The night was certainly not all smiles and laughter, as Gibson and Falley both performed poems in memory of the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. Both “Orlando” by Gibson and “Pulse” by Falley left the poets and the audience speechless in memory of the horrific event.

With a similar tone of sorrow, Gibson read “Photoshopping My Sister’s Mugshot.” They asked the audience to consider activism in the community and said that America is finally, “looking at drug addiction as a public health crisis instead of a criminal justice issue, and the only reason that’s happening is because white people are dying and white communities are struggling. The war on drugs was a war on black lives led by mass incarceration in the U.S.”

“So when I am reading this poem,” they continued, “and I am asking folks to have a lens of compassion and humanity for my sister who’s an addict, it’s also important to note that that’s not been a luxury or a privilege that has been afforded for folks of color in this country ever.”

Gibson and Falley read some more comical pieces as well, including Falley’s piece “Fat Girl” which has gained quite a lot of attention through Facebook and YouTube. Gibson read “To the Men Catcalling My Girlfriend as I’m Walking Beside Her,” which essentially called out men for the comments they make toward women on the street. While the poem had a very serious point, their skillful execution had the audience laughing and cheering throughout the poem.

At the end of the show they encouraged audience members to participate in the “Things that Don’t Suck” campaign, which accompanies a poem from “Pansy.” Audience members were asked to write down “things that don’t suck” on sticky notes and post them on the board because, as Gibson says, “we need reminders and some people write the sweetest things.”

Falley also challenged the audience to go home and write love letters to themselves. In the spirit of National Poetry Month, which lasts through the end of April, I think we should all give this one a shot. The biggest thing to be taken away from the night is that while it is crucial in tough times to speak up and be heard, it is also important to keep track of the positive things in life and remind ourselves of the good.

Erin Alzapiedi can be reached at ealzapiedi@umass.edu.

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