Elevate Difference

Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns

As a newer reader of and listener to poetry, I often find it overly dramatic or flowery for my tastes. When I started reading Andrea Gibson’s collection, Pole Dancing To Gospel Hymns, I was not drawn to her lyrical love poems, which I read too cynically, but as I read on, I was drawn in by her humor, self-reflection, and earnest political analysis. This collection of twenty-six poems vary from love poems to political laments—all written with obvious skill for word choice, style, and performability (although I cannot attest to her performance, she recently won the first ever Women of the World Poetry Slam in March 2008).

The poem “See Through” was one of my favorites. Written about her thoughts in trying to explain whiteness to a five year old, the poem is incredibly self-reflective, and while explicit in naming the histories of white privilege and supremacy in this country, does not fall into the common activist trap of white guilt, but, rather, expresses the rage and motions towards action: “Don’t you think its time something changed?” Throughout the book she spaces a few very short, humorous poems that add wit, brevity, and humor to a collection that is, on the whole, heavy and longer.

Overall, the collection reads with cohesion and variety - although, after the first few, I grew tired of the love poems written about her girlfriends. Pole Dancing To Gospel Hymns is for readers who are looking for smart, enjoyable, political poetry on topics ranging from queerness, gender, love, war, whiteness, and United States Empire.

Written by: Katrina Forman, July 6th 2008

Oh man, I loved this collection so much! If you have a chance to see her live, you should definitely go. She is very inspiring.