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Sarah Kay: A Poet like No Other

Sarah Kay is an American poet, most famous for her TED Talk on Spoken Word Poetry. She’s also the founder of Project V.O.I.C.E. She’s in Bangalore right now for the National Youth Poetry Slam, and thanks to the Literary and Debating Society and the Airplane Poetry Movement, she took a workshop for young poets right here in National Law School. Obviously, Quirk took this chance to talk to her about her work and her life. 

What would say is your favourite part about being who you are and doing what you do? Because you are one of the few people who actually get to do what they love.

I love the surprising places that poetry takes me. And I love the surprising people that I get introduced to through poetry. There are so many people I’ve met because they found poetry in their lives and I found poetry in mine, and somehow our lives have just connected. And these are folks I would never have otherwise been able to find, and I love that.

We couldn’t help but notice how it’s a majority of women who’ve attended this workshop. We were wondering if that’s common across the board for the other workshops you’ve conducted or in the spoken word poetry scene in general?

That’s so interesting. In the States I think it’s actually more male-dominated. There’s more male spoken word poets or at least (laughs) they are a louder presence, shall we say. But I think I’ve found that in Asia, I mean it isn’t a blanket statement, there are a lot of different countries in Asia (laughs), but in my experience here I have found that there are a lot of women who respond to this art form because it’s an opportunity to write ourselves out of the margin and reclaim narratives that maybe haven’t been written for us or people who have tried to write for us, instead of letting us speak for ourselves. I think there is something particularly powerful about that. So I am not surprised that there are a lot of women here. I think it’s awesome.

So it’s not just because women are more angsty?

(Laughs) It could be that too, but I think even that is powerful, right? The fact that instead of sitting at home with those feelings you are attempting to put them into words and share them with other people is a powerful choice. No matter what their feelings are.

You’ve been to India a couple of times before, right? What’s your favourite part about it?

India is a big place. (laughs) This is my first time in Bangalore, though, which I’m really excited about. So what’s my favorite part? Does food count? (laughs) I could probably eat Indian food every single day and be happy for my whole life. But my answer would be the colours. There’s so much color in India, that there isn’t anywhere else. And I yearn for it when I leave, and as soon as I get back here I’m thrilled to find it again. Simple things right, like cars. In the States, the cars are only black and grey and dark blue and maybe, red. And here there is every color on the streets around me. Obviously women’s dresses and Saris. That colour is so powerful in terms of altering my mood, I think. So I love that.

What is one wish you have for the coming year? For yourself, for the world, for anything?

Those are different categories. For the world, I really hope that the US does not fuck up this elections. (laughs) We all hope. That’s a big hope. I hope that this event, the NYPS, is just the beginning and I hope that it exposes to a lot of young artists to this art form, who haven’t maybe found it yet. Or who have and didn’t know that there is a community that existed for them. And I hope that when I return next year, or the year after that, that this event is even bigger and stronger with more diversity of voices, which I think there is definitely room for.

If you have one line only, which you can share with someone who is starting out as a writer, or someone who wants to write, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of writing bad poems. You have to write bad poems in order to figure out how to write better poems. The worse thing that people do is that they write one bad poem and they go, uh-oh, I guess I’m not good at this. I should just quit. It doesn’t work that way. I write bad poems every day. So don’t be afraid of that.

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