Spoken word poet retells life stories in performance

Mikaela Cannizzo

Sarah Kay, a poet who appeared on a TED talk at the 2011 conference and performed on HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam,” presented a montage of her poems for students on campus Wednesday night.

Event coordinators from four Campus Events + Entertainment communities, including Distinguished Speakers, Asian American Culture, Headliners and Creative Arts + Theatre, organized the event to bring awareness to performance-based poetry.

Event coordinator and English sophomore, Jesse Minchey, said he wanted Kay to present spoken word poetry to students because she pursues an innovative form of art that he and other students can personally connect with.

“When I watched her TED talk, it wasn’t a very abstract or distant poetry,” Minchey said. “It didn’t feel like I was looking at something far away ­— it felt like I was actually there listening to [her performance] and I could feel it.”

Kay, who began as a poetry slam competitor at the age of 14, now performs her poetry to audiences throughout the country. She is also the founder and co-director of Project VOICE, a program that encourages students to become more confident in their own voice and creative abilities by learning about spoken word poetry.

Elena Pinaroc, a junior biology student who attended the event, said Kay’s ability to present the poems she writes empowers her to think about her own life.

“Her messages in her poems speak to me and are really applicable to my life like the theme about falling in love,” Pinaroc said. “She says not to lose yourself when you actually do fall in love for the first time.”

Kay performed poems about a variety of topics including relationships, her childhood and politics. While Kay said every poem she writes is personal, she said she does not believe in immediately sharing everything she writes.

“I believe that there is a difference between personal and private,” Kay said. “If I write something and the idea of people hearing it makes me want to pass out, it’s private. And I still needed to write it and it still needed to exist, but I don’t need to get on stage and share it.”

The event also included opening act performances by members of Spitshine Poetry, a student organization dedicated to cultivating the skill of spoken word poetry and providing a stage for poets to share their work.