Sarah Kay (born 1988) is an American poet who began performing poetry at age 14. Sarah Kay specializes in spoken-word poetry. The performance aspect of her work is clear in all of her videos. To start getting to know Sarah Kay’s work and philosophy, watch her TEDxEast talk above, titled “How Many Lives Can You Live?”. If you find the depth that I do in this talk, visit Sara Kay’s website for access to a substantial number of her performances. Poetry was long performed more than it was written down. Performance is still a central tradition for poets in a way that reading prose is not for prose writers. Spoken-word poetry is, as Sarah explains, a combination of theater and poetry that cannot really be pinned to a page. As she is young and started performing poetry at age 14, she is a poet many of your students will be able to relate to. If you already have, or are thinking of having, a poetry stage in your classroom or school, Sarah’s work ought to help you. This is a rich, deep, well performed talk about writing. It is about writing and life and how you can use writing to experience lives that you, yourself, will never live.
At the core of the greatest stories in Western literature — for example, Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert; Moby Dick, by Herman Melville; Othello, by William Shakespeare; Hard Times, by Charles Dickens, The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner; The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison — is the author’s skill in bringing characters who are completely different from each other (and from the author) into being.
Whether you are a young writer or a teacher of young writers, listen to Sarah Kay’s TEDxEast talk. I know teachers will find many ideas that will fit into and enrich your current writing program. This is a piece you will want to visit many times.
By way of introduction to Sarah Kay’s childhood and development as a poet, in particular the importance of her elementary education, watch this second talk below. She effortlessly glides from a standard kind of presentation to a gossamer glittering shockingly vivid and effortless gorgeous storytelling. She also links her 14-year-old self, when she first started performing poetry, to her 24-year-old self. Many students will find the link between her 8th-grade self and her young-adult self exciting and inspiring.