People to Watch in Denver: Colorado Poet Laureate Andrea Gibson | Westword

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People to Watch 2024: Colorado Poet Laureate Andrea Gibson

Andrea Gibson has big plans for their tenure.
Colorado Poet Laureate Andrea Gibson
Colorado Poet Laureate Andrea Gibson Megan Falley
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Colorado has its tenth poet laureate: Andrea Gibson, who took on the two-year role in September after being appointed by Governor Jared Polis.

“Andrea Gibson is an inspiring Colorado artist. Colorado’s poet laureate is an ambassador of the arts and someone who can truly share their talents while inspiring the artistic abilities within ourselves," Polis said in making the announcement. "Andrea’s voice holds a fierce conviction in inspiring others to pursue art and take action toward solving social issues, and they personify our Colorado for All spirit. I know Andrea will be a strong advocate for the arts and art education as a way to bring us together, has a strong desire for unity and to bring people together through poetry."

The nonbinary Boulder-based slam poet, queer activist and author replaced Bobby LeFebre, the state's youngest poet laureate and first person of color in the position. “I admire Andrea not only for their extraordinary talent, but also for their unwavering dedication to building a more just world, one we have yet to see but long for," LeFebre told us after Gibson was announced as his successor. "Their poetry and life’s work are a force that empowers us to confront the internal and external challenges of our time with empathy, courage and compassion.”

LeFebre took part in more than 130 events during his four-year tenure, and Gibson hit the ground running. Named one of Colorado's top-ten must-read writers by Westword in 2019, Gibson told us that they want to use this new platform to highlight LGBTQ+ and social-justice issues — a focus of the artist's work since they got started as a slam poet in 1999.

Gibson grew up in rural Maine and attended Saint Joseph's College, earning a degree in writing. A year later, Gibson moved to New Orleans before settling in Boulder in 1999, which has been home ever since. Over the past 24 years, Gibson has been a four-time Denver Grand Slam Champion in poetry; won the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Detroit; and placed fourth at the 2004 National Poetry Slam and third at the 2006 and 2007 Individual World Poetry Slam.

Even with such recognition, Gibson has always stayed rooted in the local scene, promoting local artists and assets. In July 2020, Gibson wrote "When I Die, Scatter My Ashes at the Mercury Cafe," a Westword essay "in support of the space in which I learned how to write."

Social justice is always at the forefront of her work, which includes seven books of poetry. Most recently, Gibson wrote You Better Be Lightning while fighting through a successful battle with ovarian cancer. As poet laureate, they plan to continue working alongside LGBTQ+-centered organizations such as A Queer Endeavor, which helps educators understand queer youths' needs, as well as offering poetry readings at nursing homes and studying how poetry can impact anti-bullying programs.

These are all “things that I hadn’t even considered before that are coming my way because of this new position," Gibson told us. "It’s just amazing.” Other People to Watch in 2024:

JR Payne, Head Coach of CU Women's Basketball
Mario Nocifera and Robert Champion, Nightlife Kings
Dede de Percin, Head of Colorado Village Collaborative
Thoa and An Nguyen, Chefs Doing It Their Way
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