Sarah Kay is a spoken word poet who grew up in New York City, where she began performing her poetry when she was only 14 years old. Sarah performed first at the Bowery Poetry Club, one of New York’s most famous spoken word venues. After that, she made regular appearances and found a new home in the poetry community. In 2004, Sarah founded Project V. O. I. C. E. which encourages youth to engage with the world around them and use spoken word poetry as a means of communicating their feelings and opinions, and better understand their culture, society, and themselves.
She spoke at the TED conference in Long Beach, California in March 2011 and her speech, “If I should have a daughter” was a combination of spoken word poetry and her experience with Project V. O. I. C. E. Sarah started her speech with a spoken word poem she wrote, “If I should have a daughter,” which created a mixture of interest and inspiration and grabbed the attention of the audience. After the poem, she spoke a little about how she got started with poetry and what inspired her to become a spoken word poet.
She also explained what spoken word is and how it is often associated with performance poetry because the emotion written on the paper is acted out during the presentation with hand and body movements and facial expressions. Sarah did an excellent job of using body movements and facial expressions to act out the emotion in the writing and her tone changed depending on what she was saying. For example, when she was speaking about something entertaining, she had a light-hearted tone of voice and smiled and laughed to emphasize those feelings.
There was a great level of enthusiasm and passion during all moments of the speech, despite the tone of the topic. Even at the most serious moments, Sarah had a strong passion for what she was saying and it brought the audience even closer to her experiences. She also held the attention and interest of the audience by scanning the room rather than staring at one section the entire time. The speech had both serious and light tones and it helped Sarah keep everyone involved. During the speech, Sarah engaged the audience by asking them to participate in an activity she does at conventions for Project V. O. I. C. E. She asked them o think of three things that they “know to be true. ” She then shared what her three topics were and talked about how that activity helps spoken word poetry come alive. Sarah also kept the audience involved by making several jokes, some of which she was the only person chuckling. During the activity, she used her third idea to share a joke, “Why was the scarecrow invited to TED? Because he was outstanding in his field. ” The joke helped shift from a serious tone to a more entertaining and funny tone but also helped lead into other aspects of her speech. Overall, the speech was inspiring and Sarah did an excellent job in her presentation.
She gave the audience a look into the way she views life by speaking about her three step process, “I will, I can, then go out and do it,” and explained that this is the approach she uses for herself but also when she teachers. Sarah gave an example of a student she once had, Charlotte who was an excellent writer and poet but felt she didn’t have anything was interesting to write about. She watched Charlotte go through all three steps, struggling at points and breezing through at others, but she knew that after Charlotte succeeded, she had found her place in the world.
Sarah was a very confident speaker, admitting that she was “incredibly nervous and excited to be up here which is greatly inhibiting my ability to keep it cool. ” This is a great point for present and future presenters because it helps people recognize that public speaking can be a very nerve-wracking experience but one that is also rewarding and she proves the reward of expressing emotions and personal opinions through her experiences with spoken word poetry. Sarah has been a part of changing many lives by simply pushing them to express themselves and she will continue to advocate the importance of spoken word poetry.