Live review: Andrea Gibson, G. Yamazawa (1/23/2014)



Being a poet, a performing poet at that, you do your best to check out other poets when they come to town. So, when two of the hottest poets you know come to the city on the same day and same time, but different locations, you gas up and rip across town to see both.

G. Yamazawa
  • G. Yamazawa

The first part of this race to poetry started with a drive to catch poet G. Yamazawa, a rising star in poetry, at UNC Charlotte's Afterhours lounge. Yamazawa, a native of Durham, has been trekking across the country on his college tour and tonight found him a bit closer to home.

In his poem "10 things you need to know about being Asian in the south" he explains his love/hate relationship with growing up in the South and how its helped him further identify and embrace his Japanese culture. Yamazawa's poems reflected a lot on his experience as an American of direct Japanese decent.

In a poem about the recent earthquake that rocked Japan, Yamazawa infuses Japanese language as the voice of his mother who reminds him that although he is Japanese, he is not from Japan so the tragedy does not affect him the same. It's a sobering tale as he meanders through the feelings of being tied to the tragedy but reminded that he still just an American.

Yamazawa injected spirit and personality into each of his poems. Showing his wit and charm while delivering a stellar show. Yamazawa also gave his crowd two surprises as he invited Chicas and National Poetry Slam Champion Carlos Robson to share their work.

With that good word tucked in my treasure chest of a heart, I raced to the Neighborhood Theatre to catch the first ever Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion Andrea Gibson.

Andrea Gibson
  • Andrea Gibson

Gibson, a native Boulder, Colo., has also been whisking around the country on tour. Performing to a packed venue, she always speaks from a place of honesty and self reflection.

In her poem dedicated to Sonya Renee called "Privilege is never having to think about it," she confronts white privilege after she toured with a black poet (Sonya Renee). It was an open-hearted poem followed by her engaging speech that race should be everyone's issue not just people of color.

The night continued with a popular poem about her dog, Squash. A light and funny poem, it was a letter to her dog which drew a colorful picture of the complicated relationships that we as humans share with each other. She goes on to describe how simple life could be if we loved unconditional like her "Squash, Squishy, Squashy, her beating heart with fur and legs," noting "humans have issues."

The performance started with Chris Pureka's stunning powerhouse of a voice as the show's opener. Her folksy, bluesy, raspy voice flowed over smoothly with crowd. There was a sincerity and honesty to this singer/songwriter that is not seen too much these days from performers.

For most of her performance, Gibson stood on the vast stage alone, though she was later joined for a few power-duets with Pureka, including "Honey," a poem about Gibson's relationship with her now girlfriend.

There is a marvelous tremble to Gibson's voice when she gets fully into her work. Before her last poem, she was worried that she was losing her voice so she wanted to finish with a piece that meant the most on the tour and had a movement behind it.

"The Nutritionist or the Madness Vase" is a reflection of the campaign. It challenges people who are considering suicide to continue to live. "I'm gonna be here asking this world to dance even if it keeps stopping on my holy feet" - a resounding line that appeals them to stay here and keep fighting.

The night was filled with beautiful words like this and her show, although not the most flashy - at most a CD of instrumentals was played behind a few poems - was powerful and the energy of her voice and the magic of her writing were enough.

The long and short of it - Andrea Gibson and G are must-see.

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