BY ANISHA PAI '19
Sarah Kay and Andrea Gibson, with surprise guest Mary Lambert, performed spoken word for a packed theater at the Academy of Music in Northampton on Wednesday. The performance was part of a week-long tour that began in Ithaca, New York and ends in Providence, Rhode Island.
Kay’s fantastical imagery and prose-like delivery offered a subtle contrast to Gibson’s emotional metaphors and wrought performance style. Gibson said they tend to decide on which poems they will perform in the moment, on stage and prefers to be accompanied by pre-recorded piano and violin.
Both poets addressed themes of love, queerness and war in alternating sets of three to four poems. The evening began light-hearted and humorous before exploring more serious topics.
The poets stayed for an hour after the event to meet the audience and sign books and CDs.
Javeria Kella ’19 was introduced to Kay five years ago through a TED Talk Kay gave that was a spoken-word poem, “B.” The poem was made into a single book, also titled “B,” which Kella bought at the performance on Wednesday and had Kay sign. Despite her love for Kay, Kella said she enjoyed Gibson’s performance more.
“It’s amazing to see how two poets have entirely different styles but one touches your heart a little more than the other,” said Kella. “Sarah is really good, she gives dramatic pauses and takes her time, but Andrea builds up the emotion.”
One of the only moments both poets were on stage was when they each performed funny, slightly embarrassing poems that they never would have performed live otherwise. Kay’s poem detailed her thought process when her vibrator was stolen from her car, while Gibson’s poem spoke to their purchase of a toy snake as a sex toy.
Kay followed this with a poem that connected her experience of teaching in Jakarta during the ISIS attacks to her memories of New York during 9/11. Titled “Jakarta, January after Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, after Frank O’Hara,” the poem drew influence from poems by Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib and Frank O’Hara.
Jocelyn Mosman ’17 said this was one of her favorite poems performed that night. “I was in tears, heartbroken, crying,” said Mosman.
She includes Sarah Kay in her top two female poets of all time, next to Marty McConnell. Mosman also enjoyed Kay’s poem “Ms. Robero,” about her primary school principal, and “The Type,” written while Kay’s best friend was in an abusive relationship.
“'The Type' literally changed my life, and I told her as much,” said Mosman, after meeting Kay at the meet and greet after the show.
Gibson performed a poem about drug addiction, “Photoshopping My Baby Sister’s Mug Shot,” speaking to their sister’s experience of heroin addiction. They finished the poem by speaking about the lack of humanity afforded to drug addiction in communities of color, and said they could write a whole book on drug addiction as a public health issue.
Halfway through their set, Gibson invited Mary Lambert on stage, explaining that when they heard Lambert would be in the audience, they thought it would be a waste to not invite her to perform. Accompanying herself on guitar, Lambert sang the chorus of “Same Love” and continued to play as Gibson performed a poem they had written on the Pulse massacre in Orlando.
“Andrea’s my absolute favorite poet in the whole wide world and I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the best night of my life,” said Rachel Schmeider-Gropen ’18. “Hearing them live and seeing how vulnerable and honest and fierce they are with their poetry is what I love most.” She enjoyed Gibson’s performance of “Maybe I Need You,” a poem about a lover who left and the hope of their return.
Mosman, Schmeider-Gropen and Kella all cited the self-love poem “Boomerang Valentine” by Gibson as one of their favorites poems performed that night.
“It was a beautiful, beautiful moment.” Mosman said. “I was just sitting [in] the third row, crying.”