Sarah Kay, Spoken Word Poetry, and Me

I used to hate poetry. No, I used to detest poetry. I couldn’t understand it, it didn’t make sense, and I hated having to memorize rules in order to be creative. It wasn’t until I discovered Sarah Kay (and through her, Phil Kaye) that my opinions on poetry began to change. I was fifteen years old and in my Freshman English class when my teacher pulled up Sarah Kay’s TED talk. She opened with her poem B, and instantly I found myself falling in love with the way she used words to portray her thoughts. She mentions in her talk that spoken word poetry is how she combines her love of theatre and poetry, and it wasn’t until I was a little older that I realized how true that is, and how much I now relate to it.

After watching her TED Talk, I continued to look for more of her poems. As the years went on, she quickly became my favorite poet. I read her book in April of 2017, and over half of it was underlined after reading it just once. I recently reread it, and different pieces stood out to me, underlined in a different color to signify the time difference.

Over the years, Sarah Kay has given me words when I had none. When I was heartbroken in 2016 but starting to move forward, her poem with Phil Kaye entitled When Love Arrives, was played constantly. In 2017, I often returned to her poem Postcards, and I have heavily underlined and annotated it in the book. In the past few months, her poem The Type has been on replay in my head, pieces of it written on post-it notes and placed in various notebooks and on walls. You see, over the years there have been few moments where I haven’t been able to find words. I talk a lot, and I write even more. I always have. But still, there have been moments where I have had no idea what to say. Sarah Kay has been there every time, handing me a line or a complete poem that gives me the words I desperately needed.

Knowing all of this, you can imagine the joy when I discovered I could see both Sarah and Phil in Seattle for a mere $15 over my spring break. I bought the ticket, told my mom about it, and then bought my mom a ticket as well. I texted my uncle to ask if we could stay with him, and got myself a bus ticket to Seattle. On a warm Saturday evening, my mom and I saw my favorite poets live. I managed to hold it together until Sarah performed The Type, and then I silently lost it. Phil Kaye also did many poems that I love dearly, so it’s safe to say I was a little bit of a mess by the time they were done.

After it was over, we were all given the chance to buy books of theirs and then get them signed. My mom and I stood in the long line and I slowly grew more and more worried that I would make a complete fool out of myself. My mom says I did fine, but all I remember is going up to them, handing over the freshly purchased books, and saying, “I’m not really sure what to do now so I’m just going to stand here,” and smiling like a little idiot. They asked me for my name, signed the books, and I said a simple “thank you” over and over again. If I hadn’t been so nervous, this is what I hope I would have said:

Thank you, Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, for being my words when I had none. Thank you for calming me down when I was anxious and for making me happy when I didn’t think anything could make me smile. Thank you for helping me fall in love with poetry, and for being a gateway to so many other poets I have come to love. Thank you for giving me inspiration for my own poems, and thank you for being the reason I write poetry at all.