There is a Poem for Everyone: Questions for Colorado Poet Laureate Andrea Gibson

There is a Poem for Everyone: Questions for Colorado Poet Laureate Andrea Gibson

Editor's Note: This fall, Colorado’s governor Jared Polis named a new Poet Laureate, Andrea Gibson, tasked with being an ambassador of sorts for the art. Since we’re throwing a little shindig for the art of poetry in November, our first ever Poetry Fest, we thought we’d ask Andrea a few questions about poetry and what it can do.

What do you think poetry can do for people and communities? Our minds don’t easily change, but poetry has the capacity to change our hearts in an instant. It engenders empathy and helps us better understand people with very different life experiences than our own. Poetry can also be a rally cry for social justice. This is particularly the case in the spoken word movement in which I grew up. My favorite poems are those that heal our inclination to think of ourselves as separate from each other and the world, while leaving us utterly astonished.

2. Are there times in your own experience that you’re more likely to turn to reading or writing poetry? Not that I can think of, as everything makes me want to write poetry and everything makes me want to read it. 

3. What are you most excited about in your new role, and what do you think might be most challenging? I’m most excited to be connecting with a wide range of people in Colorado. In many ways this position feels like a full circle. I fell in love with the art form while sharing poems in Colorado schools.  Then, I spent two decades after, touring the world with my art. It’s been a long time since I’ve been invited to read poems to 3rd graders in my own town, so it’s been a beautiful homecoming. In regards to the challenges, the main thing that’s come up is trying to manage all of the speaking invites. There have been so many, which is kind of a lovely problem to have. 

4. What do you say to people who, for whatever reason, feel excluded from or intimidated by their experiences with poetry? I say, “It’s not you. It’s them.” Which is a joke of sorts, but what I mean is—if you’ve not found a poem you love or relate to or are inspired by, keep looking. There is a poem for everyone. Many people tend to believe poetry is only what bored them to sleep in high school English class. But not liking that kind of poem and thinking you don’t like poetry is similar to not liking Disco and thinking you don’t like music. I believe there is a style of poetry out there for everyone. And I mean that for reading poems and writing them. 

5. Any words of encouragement or gateway poems (I think I saw Mary Oliver was a favorite) that could help bring them in? Maya Angelou said an unspoken poem is a half finished poem. I’ve had folks argue with me whenever I share that, but I love it. Because I’m so personally inspired by people sharing their poems aloud, I commonly send people who are new to poetry to YouTube where, these days, they can search a topic and find a poem about almost anything. After that— yep– I send them to Mary Oliver. Particularly this one very short (yet enormous) poem by her:


(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.


–Mary Oliver