Poetry Review: Andrea Gibson's Lord of the Butterflies Tour with Buddy Wakefield at Glee Club Nottingham

Words: Bridie Squires
Tuesday 21 May 2019
reading time: min, words

We were almost all poem'd out after the onslaught of spoken word at Nottingham Poetry Festival, but couldn't resist getting down to Glee Club Nottingham to check out Andrea Gibson's Lord of the Butterflies Tour, supported by Buddy Wakefield...


US poets Andrea Gibson and Buddy Wakefield graced the stage at Nottingham Glee Club on Thursday. The spoken-word artists have been hitting UK venues with Gibson's Lord of the Butterflies Tour and were met with a warm, packed room in humble Nottingham.

Three-time world slam champion Buddy Wakefield dropped into his performance with surreal and intense storytelling. As the first poem's ending simmered, he declared that he “doesn't normally drink on stage” and requested a beer in what was clearly an anxiety-riddled moment. Wakefield's performance seemed to be fuelled by his hot collar. Delivery smacked with vehemence, as he switched from plainly recalling his experiences growing up struggling with his identity as an adopted child and gay man in a southern US town, to dropping us in the thick of poetic hurricanes.

Wakefield's verse is cinematic, often punctured with a stream-of-consciousness chaos that hisses into the most honest corners of your brain before reflections and lessons suddenly appear in a moment of breathing room. First impressions, judgement, sexuality, identity, and masculinity are all prodded subjects.

Andrea Gibson's hour-long performance was filled with their experiences as a gender-queer person, growing up, relationships, as well as a heartfelt, gut-wrenching retelling of the Orlando shootings and the feeling of fear that stuck with LGBTQ+ communities following the tragic events. Throughout the majority of the set, Gibson used piano-led music to back quick-paced verse, thick and considered metaphors, and a signature rhythm to their words.

Like Wakefield, Gibson has an incredible ability to suck you into their world and forget where you actually are. We were served stunning images of ivy-covered buildings, peppered with delicate and vulnerable moments found in breakups. In the spaces between their pieces, they spoke frankly about their use of pronouns and expressed the need for learning to continue with love from all sides, citing a recent experience of being on a local radio station with the presenter continually having to correct herself.

Maybe it's a matter of taste, but I felt the backing music to Gibson's poetry added a layer of cheese that the pieces could have done without. Sometimes it's well-placed, other times it feels emphatic and flowery in contrast to what's being put across. Gibson's quick words are always clearly delivered, and every line packs a punch, so much so that it's easy to become so caught up in the meticulously-crafted metaphor of a line that you miss a chunk of what comes next. It's a testament to Gibson's all-killer-no-filler style, but I'd have loved a bit more space to swallow up their poetry in its entirety. But it could be my slow ears, and is all the more reason to buy their book.

The honest accounts and stoic performances of both poets make this a standout show. They're a couple of the best spoken-word artists in the world to date. If you get a chance to see this show as it continues to tour around the UK, do it.

Andrea Gibson's Lord of the Butterflies Tour, supported by Buddy Wakefield, took place on Thursday 16 May 2019 at Glee Club Nottingham

Andrea Gibson website

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