Sunday, July 7, 2013

Trying to Get it Right This Time Around

In a recent On Being podcast, Krista Tippett interviewed Sarah Kay. Sarah is a spoken word poet, and the founder of Project V.O.I.C.E. I'd never given much thought to spoken word poetry - heck, I'd not given it any thought. As a rule, my preference is for reading, followed by listening (to the radio or to podcasts), with TV and videos coming up last (although knitting has made me more amenable to watching Netflix movies). If I'm looking for a news article, and my google search takes me to a video story, I quickly scroll down to see if there is a transcription; if there is none, I'm most likely going to close that window and try again; I can skim faster than those newsies can talk...

That said, I found Sarah quite likable. She encouraged listeners to "rediscover wonder," and she was a storyteller. She shared her early introduction to poetry:
My favorite story to tell is that when I was a kid from kindergarten all the way through fourth grade, I brought my lunch to school with me every day. And either my mother or my father would write a poem on a little piece of paper and fold it up and put it in my lunchbox so that when I got to school, when it was lunchtime, I would open it up and have a new poem waiting for me. I have most of them all in various notebooks that I pasted together when I was a kid. They were very short and often silly sort of Dr. Suessy or Shel Silversteiny, and they made it so that my association with poetry from a very early age was a surprise to look forward to, a gift, you know, something I could unwrap. And that really affected the way that I feel about poetry to this day.
Isn't that delightful? (Can you imagine parents' doing that?)

Sarah also spoke of the need for balance between listening and talking, and the need to tell our own stories:
I think there are people in the world who are too interested in hearing themselves talk. And we're all guilty of it in various moments, myself included. But when you're too eager to hear yourself talk, you don't listen to anybody else and that's a problem. Then there are people who are scared of talking and are scared of telling the world their story and speaking up. The problem with that is, when they don't speak, they allow other people to speak for them. Oftentimes, those people can't do it justice. You know, no one can tell your story like you can, and I really love hearing someone tell their story. There's nothing like it. So I think striking that balance is really important.
I am more of a listener than a talker, but this blog is an effort - at least to a small degree - to share my own story (albeit in very small bites).

Because I so enjoyed listening to Sarah, and because I wanted to see her perform her poetry, I followed On Being's link to her TED talk, and actually watched it (see? sometimes even I do video...).

During the first 3:45 minutes of this talk, Sarah performs her poem B. I encourage you to at least watch this much of her talk. Her performance is touching and witty and self-deprecating and sweet.

I appreciated her advice to her daughter, that "[she] doesn't have to wear the cape all by herself." (Let's be honest; most of us should adopt that as our mantra: I don't have to wear the cape all by myself...) And I smiled at her observation that "the very people you want to save are the ones standing on your cape."

In the next part of her talk, Sarah entertains and educates and inspires. At 15:10, she ends with another poem, Hiroshima, which concludes with this:
...if you tell me I can do the impossible, I'll probably laugh at you. I don't know if I can change the world yet because I don't know that much about it and I don't know that much about reincarnation either, but if you make me laugh hard enough, sometimes I forget what century I'm in. This isn't my first time here. This isn't my last time here. These aren't the last words I'll share, but just in case, I am trying my hardest to get it right this time around.

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