Spoken-word poet Sarah Kay comes to UB.
Sarah Kay, the spoken-word poet whose high-octane performances have attracted nearly 3 million fans worldwide, dazzled a few hundred more in April, when she appeared before a sold-out crowd at the Arnold Bernhard Center.
Kay’s appearance at UB was organized by the Student Government Association (SGA). Kay was preceded by members of the campus poetryand- arts group, SLAM, and Clay Whitaker, a seventh grader from Roosevelt School in Bridgeport who read an original poem about inner-city boys forfeiting or forging their futures depending on the choices they make.
SGA member Virginia Orman said she was amazed by the audience’s response. “People were talking about it the next day,” said Orman, who spearheaded the evening for SGA. “They want her to come back.”
That kind of buzz is typical for Kay. She became an overnight sensation when her March 2011 TED Talk went viral (it currently has over 2.7 million hits). Since then, she’s traveled the world to teach, lecture, and perform Spoken-word poetry. Her appearance at UB followed two months in Asia, and she told the audience it felt great to be home.
A New York City kid, Kay shared her first furtive attempts at poetry during open-mic nights at Bowery Bar in the East Village. At the time, she was an awkward but determined 14-year-old who was encouraged by her mom and dad.
As she spoke about her childhood, Kay, 24, seamlessly launched into “Montauk,” a poem about her family’s annual summer vacation. Told from Kay’s varying vantage points as a 7-year-old up through her teens, “Montauk” is both a paean to her family and the wonder of childhood.
“We followed that yellow spot of highway until we couldn’t go any farther,” Kay began. “This is where I learned to swim . . . how to drive a car in a hardware store parking lot, how to kiss a boy with sand between my toes. / Time goes to Montauk to take a break, loosens its belt, takes a seat on the front porch next to my father and his Weber Grill. / It putters around the kitchen while my mother is kneading the bread and tells no one in particular, ‘We should roast peaches tonight.’”
It was one of seven poems Kay performed before answering questions from audience members who had driven as far as New Jersey to hear her. “What advice do I have for someone who wants to start writing or get back into writing?” she responded. “Stop being scared of yourself. It’s OK to write bad poems.”