Words That Do Things
“I write poems to figure things out.” Sarah Kay’s words are as true of the stories we tell each other (and ourselves) as they are of poetry. Sarah entered – actually was entered by someone else (to this day she doesn’t know who) – a spoken poetry contest at the age of fourteen, and when she realized that her words could do something, touch someone, and help her figure herself and the world out, she was hooked. Since then she has gone on to write and share poetry all over the country and world and founded and co-directs Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach into Creative Expression) that teaches adults and teenagers to use spoken poetry to explore their lives in this world.
Sarah said there were three essential steps it took her to become a poet, three steps she believes we all need to travel to becoming who and what we were meant to be.
Step one was her saying, “I can. I can do this.” Often it helps when someone else says it to you first, but eventually you need to say it yourself.
The second step was her saying, “I will. I will continue. I love spoken word. I will keep coming back week after week.” The place she came back to was New York’s Bowery Poetry Club, the site of her poetry contest which she only discovered later was a bar where people also happen to recite spoken poetry. But she kept coming back, kept coming to listen to poets ten and twenty years her senior. Why? Because she loved it and it was worth it.
The third step – the one that takes a lifetime – happened when she realized that to be a poet she first had to be herself, her pure self, or at least as close to that as you can come: “It’s about gathering up all of the knowledge and experience you’ve collected up to now to help you dive into the things you don’t know.”
Three steps to become a poet, or a mom, or a teacher, or a friend, or a pastor, or…whatever it is you’re called to be.
Enjoy Sarah’s TEDTalk where she talks about – and shares – her journey and her poetry.
Note: if you are receiving this post by email you may need to click here to watch the video.
If you enjoyed this video, you might also be interested in Krista Tippet’s interview of Sarah on Krista’s radio program, On Being.