Nathan Scolaro on Sarah Kay
For over a decade, 28-year-old Sarah Kay has touched millions of people with her exquisite spoken word poetry. Her TED Talk, “If I should have a Daughter” has had over 9.5 million views, showing us the power of poetry in an often-cynical world. Whenever I watch Sarah perform, something remarkable happens. My heart rate quickens, I want to be more present. I want to feel more, love more, because she holds up a mirror to the deepest parts of our humanity—highlighting life’s nuances to make us taste, touch and feel the moment.
Growing up in New York City the daughter of two photographers, Sarah was encouraged to “always look for the light.” Every day at school as a child, she would open up her lunchbox to a poem among her snacks, a small gift from her parents that taught her to pay attention to the world and find joy in it. At age 14, her heart bursting with poetry and chutzpah, she performed at the famous Bowery Poetry Club, uncertain of the work but compelled to share it anyway. It was a defining moment: in the dimly-lit space before a roomful of adults, she discovered the magic that happens when we listen to and share our stories. By the end of her teens, Sarah was performing her poetry around the world, becoming a powerful role model with her vitality and message of hope.
While in high school, Sarah founded Project VOICE, an organisation which uses spoken word poetry to improve literacy, promote empowerment, and encourage empathy and vulnerability in the classroom. Through workshops and performances, she and her colleagues instil in the students a desire to share and listen to each other’s stories, while showing them that it’s okay to be affected by emotion. “I think the only way people become willing to be vulnerable is if it’s modelled to them,” she tells me.
When we speak, Sarah is enjoying a rare period of “downtime”—she’s not touring Europe or teaching in remote parts of Nepal. Instead, she’s at a residency in New York processing her experiences and wrapping words around them. I find a familiar voice on the other side of the line, someone who is thoughtful with her words and genuinely navigating the world with wonder, reminding me that listening isn’t just a role we have to play in our lives. It’s a privilege.
This wonderful photoshoot took place at the Sheen Center in New York.