Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Spoken Word Poet Sarah Kay Stuns

<king a break from the cold weather outside, students and accepted students alike packed into the warmth of the Cave to listen to the poetry performance last Friday night by Sarah Kay, Spoken Word poet and founder of Project V.O.I.C.E., which seeks to  “combine performance, writing, and a supportive environment to inspire youth to recognize that their views are significant, valid, and necessary.”

“Thank you all so much for coming out tonight!” Kay exclaimed before joking, “are you sure you’re at the right place? You’re actually all choosing to spend your Friday night listening to poetry?”

Kay, who had already delivered Convocation earlier that day, is a traveling poet who began performing poetry at age fourteen, is a graduate of Brown University, and has performed at the United Nations, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the 2011 TED Conference. Videos of her performances have garnered thousands of views on Youtube, and she published her first book of poetry, B, last year.

Students were enormously excited for her performance. “It was one of my favorite events that I have attended at Carleton,” said Lindsay Rand ’16. “Coming from someone who has never been exposed to anything like slam poetry I couldn’t believe how interpretive the poems and their meanings truly were.”

Members of the Carleton Slam Poetry Collective (CSPC) also performed for Kay, opening the show with several poems each. The student poets found the space fostered deeper connections with the audience than other spaces, in which they had performed .

“I performed a poem called ‘How to Forget Your Homeland’ that I had also performed last term at We Speak, and on Friday I performed it very differently than I had last term,” said Isabel Carter ‘16, a member of the CSPC. “[This time,] the space was smaller, more intimate. The crowd was there for poetry specifically…so I was able to be more vulnerable in my performance, which is really the key to that poem.”

“It was nerve-wracking, but also inspiring,” said Halah Mohammed ’14 of performing alongside Kay. “Seeing her here, knowing that she was listening to my poetry, was amazing. It reminded me that my poetry is worth something. I was so inspired to have someone who understands the importance of words, and the importance of poetry, listening.”

Mohammed, one of the leaders of CSPC, began performing poetry in the third grade, and got into spoken word poetry in junior high school. In high school, she continued performing in showcases. “I came to college still loving poetry,” she explained. She continued to write while at Carleton, and performs with CSPC regularly.

“I love performing—putting my words out there, like little darts that hit each person in the audience with a burst of creativity and connection. People catch words, they latch onto them,” she said.
Carter also spoke to her own love of performing. “I love the combination of writing with performance, and specifically in the smaller dose that spoken word provides,” she explained. “These are not long performances, but they are powerful. They are visceral. They get a reaction. And that’s why I love it.”

As Sarah Kay performed her own poetry, students enjoyed the optimism and honesty that covered a wide variety of subjects from her younger brother to hatred in the world. “Spoken word is engaging, vulnerable, funny, emotional, light,” said Isabel Carter “anything that can be expressed in words–and even some things that can’t.”

Throughout the performance, Sarah Kay explained the events leading up to her poetry. She even discussed how she had performed the poem before and the style performance she would make at Carleton.

“Sarah has been one of my personal idols for quite some time now, so I was familiar with almost all of the poems she performed,” said Maggie Lloyd ’16, writing chair of the CSPC. “I was captivated by her performance. Sarah is an incredible poet, but she is also an incredible performer and seeing her words spoken live is truly awe-inspiring.”

Lloyd also performed in the opening of the show. “For me, opening for my personal hero was the experience of a lifetime, and I know that my poetic process will be changed after having spoken with Sarah Kay about the importance of Spoken Word and the power of poetry.”

Sarah Kay’s young age of twenty-four also amazed students. “I was surprised how accomplished and mature she was although she seemed to be just a little bit older than Carleton students,” said Sally Donovan ’16. “She was so relatable and down to earth.”

Through the show, many students became aware of a new art form that they had just barely heard of before. “Overall it was an extremely positive experience and it opened my eyes to even more ways that people have of communicating their emotions through various art forms,” said Rand. “I think it inspired me to be more open and try new things.”

Kay’s final performed poem was called “Hand-Me-Downs,” a commentary on actions committed through history as a result of hatred that has been passed down. “I know you’ve taken to wearing around your father’s hand-me-down anger—but I wish that you wouldn’t,” Kay began.  “It’s a few sizes too big and everyone can see it doesn’t fit you.”

Lloyd was especially touched by Kay’s last poem, which she cites as a personal favorite of hers. “[Kay’s] performance was particularly poignant given the recent bombings in Boston,” she said, “and I doubt I was the only person moved to tears by it.”

In the end, Sarah Kay’s performance enthralled and inspired students, and was one of the most heavily-attended events this year. “I thought it was awesome that she came, and [I] very much hope that we have similar events like this in the future,” said Erin Healy ’16.

“She has a glow about herself, because she loves what she does,” added Mohammed. “Her presence evokes that glow from everyone else, and I’m forever thankful that we were able to have her here.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *