08 Jun

Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter …

As mentioned in the previous post, it’s due to the RGD Ted Party that the decision to talk about this TED Talk was made.

The spoken word artist can be found here:

Date Filmed: March 2011

Length: 18 minutes, 29 seconds

How it related to me:

I remember watching this TED Talk the first week it was posted and I remember having mixed reviews about it in my mind.  Poetry is something that I used to enjoy in my younger days and watching it performed at a TED Talk brought an interesting mix of reactions within me.

The most notable, something that Kay admits to the audience, is that she sounds nervous.  Not ‘NeRvOuS’, in the sense that she’s stumbling over words and making terrible mistakes, but the kind of jumpy adrenaline rush that accompanies a performance.  You can hear a tremble in her voice and I found it distracting the very first time I listened to it.

(Odd note:  The very first time I watched this Talk, I didn’t even know who she was referring to when she mentioned Anderson Cooper which is ironic when compared to my experiences today)

Kay’s opening poem is beautiful, it does a dance with imagery and leaps about in points of view that keeps the listener entertained.  She explains many situations that she wants to share with her daughter that might possibly be her own vexations of life that she had experienced.  Kay may be young, but she seems to have lived.

There is a very interesting statement that is made by Kay, and that she writes poems to solve questions to herself.  It’s a very interesting explanation because it also summarizes her natural desire to write poetry.

What questions did she solve with ‘If I should have a daughter’? 

Please keep in mind, this is my conjecture about a piece of art, so I’m shooting for the moon here.  And if I were to hamper a guess, it really is a list of life lessons that she wants to pass on to her daughter.  Effectively a form of mnemonic to use if the day were to ever arise, and that’s rather brilliant on its own.

Kay continues on with some of the major milestones and steps in her life.  These milestones described are a girl that intimidated her, adults and experts that intimidated her but in turn, much to her own surprise, showed acceptance.  Acceptance of her, her poetry and it was the starting point of how she began her spoken word poetry journey.  The steps she follows are also things that are intimidating, continuing because you choose to; being who you are accepting the fear that your style isn’t the style you thought you need to carry.  

Indignant – (as defined by feeling, characterized by, or expressing strong displeasure at something considered unust, offensive, insulting or base:

Kay’s finishing poem of reincarnation/rebirth finishes with the reminder that the now is the time to try our hardest.  Yes, life is a cycle, but regardless of where we are in it; it is our chance to strive for the better.

One Sentence Summary:

“Some poems by Sarah Kay”

I admit, I have a very hard time trying to tie this Ted Talk down to a single notion.  Kay speaks multi dimensionally where sentences carry double meanings/entendres, call backs to other famous quotes or songs, and sentences that use ‘I’ but really mean ‘you’. 

Curse you poetry and your fancy poetryness!

What caught me off guard

At the 4 minute 9 second mark, the suspension of disbelief temporarily bursts for me. 

The first four minutes is the poem entitled, and it’s very rehearsed.  There are gestures, moments and tones that fit together like a jigsaw of seemingly broken pieces but form together to create a whole.  There are moments of vulnerability, of insight and of surprise.

And then after the poem, she talks naturally.  The beats with which she speaks are completely different, her pauses are different, Kay’s attitude seems different.

This throws me off me temporarily.  For I realize that it was a performance, and that moment of vulnerability, is one that has been rehearsed.

But at the same time, this doesn’t matter.  It still is a very real life experience and the delivery (most likely done through nervousness, real or feinted) isn’t the important pieces.

So now that it has been discussed what can we do?

(I’m a bit tired, so I’m hoping I haven’t used this example before but part of my mind thinks I had previously)

There is a card game, Mille Bornes, that I had found in the classroom in grade four.  I didn’t want to draw attention to my secret find, so I quietly read the rules and played a silent game in the back of the class.  This game was about driving to a 1000 km and you played cards showing mileage to get there.  There was one card, entitled ‘Right of Way’ that threw me off.

The reason being, and why it burned into my memory, was it showed a Firetruck with the phrase ‘Right of Way’ on it and it broke the rules of the road. 

I had assumed I was driving along where this firetruck appears and because of it I’m suddenly allowed to go through red lights?   I’m somehow following the firetruck so closely no one notices I’m breaking the law?  Why is the firetruck going my way?  Is it legal to say you had ‘Right of Way’ when you’re chasing a firetruck?

It took me YEARS to realize, that in the game, when you played that card, YOU became the Firetruck.  You weren’t a car following, it was your ‘ride’.

If you ask a boy (who has a brother), ‘Do you have a brother?’ the child will say yes.  If you then ask the child, “Does your brother have a brother?” and they might say ‘No’, only because they do not associate his or herself as a third party entity.  (I’m summarizing here so its a wibbly wobbly description)

The reason why I bring these two examples up, is that even though Kay speaks her poems in the first person, these poems aren’t meant to be from HER perspective only.  Yes, the experiences are extremely personal but at the end of the day, they are perspectives worth sharing.

And that sure sounds familiar.


– Updated every Friday

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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Uncategorized



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