The Necessary Voice: Sarah Kay and the Power of Spoken Word Poetry

Kay sera, sera: What will be, will be. Coincidence that poet Sarah Kay‘s website is named I think not. But Kay doesn’t let things be. She sees a need and she tries to fill it. She did this with her Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression), a group dedicated to using spoken word as an inspirational tool. She says that, “finding our voices enlivens us and the world.”

According to their website, Project V.O.I.C.E. encourages young people to engage with the world around them and use Spoken Word Poetry as an instrument through which they can explore and better understand their culture, their society, and ultimately themselves. This, for me, is a perfect example of how art can be used to create peace. Poetry– or any other writing for that matter– can be so powerful if used right. It can make people see things differently or from the poet’s point of view. Poetry is a way to use your voice, something that I think most American’s take for granted, to tell your story. Kay tries to teach children that their opinion is not only valid, but necessary. She talks more at length about this in the video below.

I had never really appreciated poetry until a friend of mine told me to watch Sarah Kay’s TEDtalk and performance of her poem “B.” I was immediately hooked. Her words, her voice, her theatricality: all of it drew me in and helped tell me the story she was trying to share. Never before had a poet been so clear to me and said things that seemed relevant and helpful. My previous encounters with poetry were limited to my high school English class and Edgar Allan Poe, so you can imagine my delight when I heard Kay perform.

After discovering Kay, I went on to listen to every one of her poems and even downloading anything to do with her on iTunes. I found this podcast by Krista Tippett on her show On Being, where she interviews Kay about her poetry, her life,  and the wonderful things she does. Kay talks about the importance of telling your stories in the way only you can tell it. She encourages everyone to share their stories through poetry by using the 5 senses and keeping it small and personal. You don’t have to write about love, life, or politics because those are huge issues that humans have been working on for years and you aren’t expected to have all the answers. She encourages us to simply share what you know in a way that you know how. This is why I find her so inspirational. Sharing stories is one of the best ways to communicate and to build bridges between people. Even if the person speaking came from a completely different upbringing, country, or time they will still have something in common with you and if they share that story there will be a level of understanding between you. Understanding is the key to peace. If we understand each other, we can love, forgive, and befriend.

I encourage all of you to listen to Sarah Kay and maybe even dabble in a little poetry yourself.

(my favorite poem by her– besides “B”– is “Worst Poetry.” It’s adorable and makes me smile)