I wouldn't define a poem, says American poet Sarah Kay

The American, known for spoken word poetry, says she wants to expand people's definition of what a poem is and who is allowed to write them.

Published: 16th September 2018 01:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th September 2018 01:55 PM   |  A+A-

Poet Sarah Kay. (Photo | instagram.com/projvoice)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: Sarah Kay is a poet but ask her to define a poem and she says, "I wouldn't".

In fact, her mission as a poet is to bring down the walls that "alienate" several readers from the literary form and make them feel "excluded".

The American, known for spoken word poetry, says she wants to expand people's definition of what a poem is and who is allowed to write them.

"I wouldn't define a poem. I am more interested in having my definition of what poetry is being constantly shifted and changed," Kay told PTI.

The 30-year-old's claim to fame is her idea to take poetry beyond the pages of books and on to the stage.

She performs her writings with animated vigour -- in her voice and in her actions.

Her journey as a poet began when someone signed her at the age of 14-year-old for a poetry slam workshop.

Unaware of what lay ahead, she was pleased to find herself in the company of other children who loved poetry.

"The experience was so transforming that I fell in love with the art form and went back to it as many times as I could," said Kay.

In less than two decades since that workshop, Kay has established herself not just as a world renowned poet and performer but also an internet sensation.

Kay, who never thought practising poetry professionally was even a possibility, now tours the world, taking jam-packed auditoriums by storm with her heart-warming recitals that redefine poetry in a brand new light.

She is also the founder of Project Voice, a programme that uses using spoken word poetry to entertain, educate and inspire.

The venture is dedicated to promoting empowerment, improving literacy and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world.

Kay's subjects of choice are varied and wide ranging.

She will talk about love and also abuse, she will talk about fond memories of her elementary school principal, the precarious mother-daughter relationship and also women's empowerment.

What makes her works identifiable to thousands of fans is that, autobiographical or not, she manages to make every poem she pens "personal".

"Sometimes it is a personal experience or a relationship with someone in my life, but even if it is something that feels like a larger societal theme, the only way I know to access it is by making it personal," she said.

For Kay, writing poetry is equivalent to solving a Rubik's cube -- a puzzle solving strategy.

"That's what it feels like in my brain when I am trying to write a poem," she said.

Kay performed at the Mountain Echoes Literary Festival in Bhutan last month, and also hosted the first Indian National Youth Poetry Slam (INYPS) in Bangalore in 2016.

"I remember (of INYPS) feeling proud of the young women stepping on stage and showing the power of femininity, and also of the men who showed that vulnerability was not a weakness but a kind of strength," Kay said.

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