Sarah Kay: Poet with all the right words visits campus

Sarah Kay
Morgan Brownell/THE REVIEW
With a passion for storytelling, spoken-word poet Sarah Kay incorporates her own life experiences into her performances.

Senior Reporter

“And no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute, be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.”
Sarah Kay, “If I Should Have A Daughter”

With nothing but a microphone and her creatively-molded thoughts, spoken-word poet Sarah Kay entertained a full crowd in Pearson Hall’s auditorium Monday night. Inspiring, honest and downright funny, the young writer was met with loud applause, laughter and—much to her chagrin—a lot of finger snaps throughout her performance.

A native New Yorker and Brown University alumna, 26-year-old Kay has been writing poetry since she was 14, after an unknown person signed her up for a slam poetry show.

“To be 14 years old and to be told I created something meaningful to a stranger—that was what hooked me,” Kay says.

She has since written two books—best-seller “B” and “No Matter the Wreckage”—and is also the founder and co-director of Project VOICE, which uses spoken-word poetry to entertain, educate and inspire students around the world. Kay says it is her “greatest joy and hardest work.”

She is also a spoken-word poetry teacher and has acquired international fame through several of her TED talks.

Weaving personal stories into her poignant and humorous poems, Kay touched on family, friends and love. She tackled the emotional rollercoaster of a first love ending, the warm memories of an inspiring elementary school teacher and even the paralyzing effects of “FOMO”—the Fear Of Missing Out.

“I think that poetry needs to be true, but I don’t think it needs to be fact,” Kay says.

Kay says she actually enjoys comparing the art of writing poetry to an unexpected human act: pooping.

“If you have a poem inside you, it has to come out,” she says. “And sometimes it can be really difficult and take a lot longer than you’d like it to. It might even be painful. Other times it can be really easy and happen much faster than you expected it to. Either way, it’s important—and you feel so much better when it’s done.”

Though she admits the metaphor is a cheeky and somewhat vulgar one, she says it allows people to see the raw nature of poetry.

“I think sometimes people are made to feel unwelcome in the house of poetry, and so I try to make it a little bit weird or a little bit gross to remind people that poetry is just as human and smelly and sweaty and hairy as you are,” Kay says.

The event was hosted by the Robert Longwell-Grice Chapter of the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) and co-sponsored by the Resident Student Association and the English department.

“Our core values are recognition, leadership, service and scholastics,” NRHH president Will Rehrig says. “And really, what we found was, [Kay] kind of hit all of those things. She’s been a phenomenal leader, and some of the underlying tones and things like that really speak to finding your voice, which is an important part of leadership.”

To incorporate the “find your voice” theme, Stimulating Prose Ideas and Theories (SPIT), the university’s student-run slam poetry organization, opened the show and allowed three undergraduates to creatively express their ideas.

“I was excited and nervous at the same time,” junior Aisha Monroe and one of the three SPIT performers says. “I tell everyone I kind of came out of retirement. Last time I had been on stage was like three years ago.”

Monroe says she enjoyed Kay’s dynamic performance and that listening to an educator’s point of view provided a different perspective.

“Some poets are just poets who like to write,” Monroe says. “But [Kay’s] coming from a point of influence, so she’s careful about what she says, but it’s also still very relatable.”

For NRHH executive vice president Haley Leo, the event was more than she could have asked for.

“We’re just so happy that everyone that came was totally engaged and totally enthralled to be there,” Leo says. “Sarah was amazing, but seeing how having her here was so impactful for students—that was even better.”

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    […] of my favorite poets, Sarah Kay, who happened to visit the university last week, writes: “—and we didn’t grow up, we grew in, […]

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