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Sarah Kay: The Art of Speech
Helena Tebeau '17 Staff Writer
May 25, 2016

On April 25, spoken-word poet Sarah Kay visited Deerfield Academy and performed some of her poetry to a full audience in the concert hall. Kay, who is from New York City, said that she has been writing all her life and began performing her poetry at age 14. She attended Brown University, earning a Master of Arts in Teaching degree.

Sarah Kay was the youngest competitor in the National Poetry Slam in 2006, and later achieved great success as a spoken-word poet.

In 2004, Kay formed Project Voice, a group of poets who use slam poetry to inspire and educate students. As the program’s website states, Project Voice is “dedicated to promoting empowerment, improving literacy, and encouraging empathy and creative collaboration in classrooms and communities around the world.”

Kay’s poems cover a wide range of topics, from gender to childhood to family. Through her writing, she likes to not only celebrate women, but also, she notes, to highlight “different lifestyles and choices, and people make [her] happy when others find [her] work empowering.”

Kay was one of the inspirations for Deerfield’s spoken-word poetry club, Off Key. Founded by Maddie Blake ’17 this year, the club has met weekly since the winter term. Blake explained the purpose of the club: “Students bring original poems and share them as well as improvise poems as a group.”

Kay’s performance at Deerfield consisted of poetry interspersed with personal anecdotes. Kay performed her acclaimed poem “If I Should Have a Daughter,” which she debuted in her TED Talk and has been viewed over nine million times, as well as many other poems such as “The Type” and “Mrs. Ribeiro.” Kay also hosted a Q&A session and book signing event the day after her performance, where students had another opportunity to interact with the famous poet.

Many students found Kay’s performance to be interesting and heartfelt. Maddie Chai ’17 described Kay’s performance as “lively, super engaging, and connected with the whole audience the whole time.”

Hatty Wang ’16 further added, “Her poetry is relatable [and] easy to understand…Sarah Kay even said during the performance that she wanted to bring poetry to everyone. She was really deliberate with the poems she read and how she read them based off of our reactions.”

Kay’s poetry not only resonated with students but with some of Deerfield’s faculty as well. Dr. Delano Copprue, an
English teacher, said, “Sarah Kay’s class visit was an opportunity for my students to have a conversation with one of the leading spoken-word poets today.” He continued, “it was an inspiring and inspired event, and it brings to light the great opportunities we have been afforded at Deerfield…moments like these underscore the importance of our writing program at DA.”