Click to go to On Being's home page.   On Being E-mail Newsletter
Sarah Kay's Way with Words
Krista's Journal: May 17, 2012

About the Image Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye perform at Da Poetry Lounge in Los Angeles in 2011. (photo: Da Poetry Lounge)

Our Social Spaces » Like us on Facebook » Circle us on Google+ » Follow us on Twitter » See images on Flickr » Watch videos on Vimeo » Watch videos on YouTube

Our Top 5 New Posts (most viewed in past week) Ian Ruhter video screen grab What Would You Be Willing to Sacrifice?
A video that's so heartbreakingly gorgeous and unswerving in its emotional sway, it'll have you pondering your own station in life. Touch Wood Xylophone in KyushuTouch Wood in a Japanese Forest with Bach
A spectacular feat of engineering and creativity that you have to see to believe. And just guess what inspired its making. Just marvelous! Seane Corn Demonstrates Body Prayer Seane Corn Demonstrates "Body Prayer"
The yoga instructor demonstrates how she channels her energy and love through a practice she calls "body prayer." Foreign Policy "Sex Issue" CoverThe Photos Used in Foreign Policy's 'Sex Issue' May Be a Test Case for Cultural Insensitivity
This provocative cover photo and article have been heralded by media outlets in the U.S. but are many of us equipped to understand the historical context and larger issues at hand for women in the Arab and Muslim communities? Uluru Sunset Sounds of Silence
A lyrical essay in which Gordon Hempton reminds the reader of what we can find inside ourselves through nature and how it makes us better listeners too. A must-read.

Upcoming Shows: Getting Revenge and Forgiveness (May 24, 2012) Michael McCullough describes science that helps us comprehend how revenge came to have a purpose in human life. At the same time, he stresses, science is also revealing that human beings are more instinctively equipped for forgiveness than we've perhaps given ourselves credit for. Knowing this suggests ways to calm the revenge instinct in ourselves and others and embolden the forgiveness intuition.

About the Program On Being is a spacious conversation — and an evolving media space — about the big questions at the center of human life.

Contact Us Send us your comments and suggestions about our work, and let us know how we're doing!

Sarah Kay's Way with Words
This 23-year-old spoken word poet has become a role model and teacher to teenagers around the world. Millions have viewed her TED talk, where she shared the main stage with figures like Bill Gates and Jamie Oliver. With Krista, she puts words around what she knows about poetry, stories, and being human and connected in this age.

Krista Tippett, host of BeingOur Words Are the Most Powerful and Connective Tool We Have

I experienced Sarah Kay at a gathering on Nantucket Island last fall. Collected there were the CEO of Google, the founder of the X PRIZE, and an eminent Broadway director. But each time this lovely 23-year-old took the stage to perform a poem, the audience quieted, reflected, and delighted in a completely different way. On YouTube, at TED, and in classrooms around the world, Sarah Kay has become an inspiration and role model for teenagers (and others).

She herself is well aware that it might sound surprising that poetry could galvanize a modern audience. When she and her friend and fellow poet, Phil Kaye, go into schools to introduce Project V.O.I.C.E, she says she finds herself fighting two sides to the same argument. She reminds teachers and administrators that what we call "spoken word poetry" is the same thing Shakespeare and Homer were about. To skeptical teenagers — who, she says, have often internalized an idea that they should shield themselves against amazement — she points out that spoken word poetry is also what Regina Spektor and Jay-Z do. As soon as we forget this, we reinvent it.

Sarah Kay talks about helping teenagers find their voices, which feels like familiar language in the 21st century. Listen to her closely — and take in the layers of response you have to her own poetry — and you see that she is doing something much more instructive and nourishing.

Her Japanese-American grandmother says she is an old soul. There's something to that. In her slam poetry and spoken word poetry and singing and teaching, Sarah Kay is reminding young people today that our words are the most powerful connective tool we have — and not merely our most personal tool. We are called to be creative with our words, and careful without words, in our age that is technological but still as human as before.

I'll end by pointing you to Sarah Kay's performance of her poem, "Hiroshima." She wrote this after a post-high school trip to Japan with her cousins. She did a lot of thinking there, as she tells it, about what we mean when we say we want to leave an impact on the world. We've also interspersed the sound of her performing other poems between a quietly beautiful conversation with me, where she puts words to what she knows about poetry, stories, and what happens within and between human beings.

B by Sarah Kay I Recommend Reading:
B
by Sarah Kay + Sophia Janowitz

A lovely gift of a small, illustrated book.

Voices on the Radio

is a spoken word poet and founder/co-director of Project V.O.I.C.E. She's the author of B.

apples