Meeting Sarah Kay

Last week, I got a very pleasant surprise as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed. Purdue’s official account had retweeted something from our newspaper about a poet stopping by campus to speak to students. As a curious being and a big fan of poetry, I hit the click-through and then gaped at the name I saw. The poet scheduled to speak at my school was none other than Sarah Kay.

Sarah is probably best known for “B” or more commonly recognized as “If I Should Have A Daughter” from her Ted talk a couple of years ago, but I stumbled across her work in an entirely different manner. I’d just started blogging when a link to a different spoken word poet appeared on my Reader. I watched his piece, and there in the suggested videos was something called, “An Origin Story.” That was the first time I heard Sarah Kay, alongside Phil Kaye, perform. The story that the two of them told together inspired me, made me want to reach out to one of my closest friends. We have that, I gasped, watching it over and over. She put into words the complicated bond that I’d tried for years to bring to life on paper.

I fell in love. And then I watched more. “Private Parts” sent me back to my first boyfriend, and I wondered how he was doing now. “The Type” reminded me that mirrors are skewed and I don’t always see myself as I am. “Postcards” was, at the time, an anthem for my first trials of a long-distance relationship. Another collaboration with Phil, “When Love Arrives” made me wonder if that distance was going to pay off. I listened to each of her poems that I could find, and I couldn’t get enough. Sarah Kay wrote her own stories, but they felt like they belonged to me.

Anyway, I found out she was going to be speaking at Purdue, courtesy of our new AAUW group. This was sometime after four o-clock, and she was scheduled to begin at seven. Luckily, my schedule was clear. I dressed and drove to campus, then walked to the Union and up the steps to the room with her name outside the door. The turn-out was phenomenal. After some time waiting in my aisle seat, the program got underway and Sarah appeared at the front podium with her microphone.

I can’t list each of the poems she performed or even say how long she was speaking. But for the time she was up there in front of me, my attention couldn’t be divided. Her performance left me nostalgic, made me teary, rendered me speechless. This woman with her words was moving me, moving my soul, as I sat in awe.

Sarah Kay

When it was over, I did all I could to piece my mind together again and shuffle to the back of the room toward the merchandise table. I waited in line there for an hour or more before finally reaching Sarah and the piles of books around her. Somewhere between her friendly hello and introduction and my purchasing her latest book No Matter the Wreckage, I managed to get a photo with her. She signed my book, graciously responded to my questions and praise, and then it was over and I was walking back across campus in clothes not nearly warm enough for December. It was a night I won’t be forgetting.

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