Sarah Kay, Modern Poet

Sarah Kay - Poetry

NEW YORK, United States — When one talks about a poet, Sarah Kay is the type of person that comes to mind. Young and extremely passionate, she is one of the many people out there who believes that she can make the world a better place. Instead of many who just say they want to make a change, she has realised this dream and is changing lives around the world, one classroom at a time. Her work has gathered a great following and has inspired people of all ages to be the best they can be. We all have our methods, and spoken word poetry is hers.

Recently, Nicholas Ng of the FG Magazine had the opportunity to talk with this talented spoken word poetess.

Sarah Kay Interview

You have said that spoken word poetry are words that refuse to stay on paper. Can you elaborate a little more on spoken word poetry?

The best examples of spoken word poetry I know are poems that need to be heard out loud or witnessed in person. There is some element of the performance that is enhancing the audience’s understanding of the poem in a way that would be lost if it was just on paper. Sometimes this is because the performance involves an accent or gesture or melody that would not translate on the page. Even if it is only one small moment, it is enough for a subliminal message to enter the brain of the audience that says, “Oh, I had to see this. It would not have been the same if I had read it”. That is such a satisfying feeling to have.

Project VOICE was started by Sarah Kay, and subsequently joined by Phil Kaye. How far has this project come and what is its ultimate goal?

When I was in high school, I noticed that a lot of my friends seemed frustrated and angry. I was lucky to have discovered spoken word poetry as a way to express my concerns and feelings as I was taught that my voice was necessary and relevant. A lot of teenagers never get that message. I wanted to share the experience of spoken word poetry with my friends in high school, so I started Project VOICE. Later, when I met Phil, we decided to “revamp” Project VOICE and focus on bringing this art form into as many classrooms and education environments as we could.

Project VOICE aims to use spoken word poetry to entertain, educate and inspire students of all ages, from classrooms from Kindergarten to 12th grade as well as colleges and universities, graduate schools, teacher training programmes and adult community centres. We really believe that you are never too young or too old for poetry. We have been in classrooms of all girls, all boys, co-ed, private schools, public schools, independent schools, international schools, magnet and charter schools, day schools, boarding schools, etc.

Sometimes people do not understand why I think it is valuable to teach poetry, but I often say that I am not concerned with creating an army of poets, but to help building a population of people who are capable of expressing things that are important to them, issues that they struggle with and parts of themselves that are vulnerable. I want to encourage them to find the words that allow them to articulate those stories and poems in their own style and to present them in a way that moves others.

I want to help build a population of people who have the ability to listen to someone else’s experience and outlook, to bear witness to what someone else is going through, and to learn empathy. These are skills that human beings need to have regardless of what job they end up doing and regardless of where they live. That is why I am doing what I do. It comes from a deep love of poetry and a deep hope that we can help foster this kind of passion, patience and compassion in people.

In the years to come, I want to bring spoken word poetry into as many classrooms as I can. I want to continue to introduce it into corners of the world where it has been forgotten or has not yet been experienced, then step aside and see what good can come of it. What conversations can we start having that have not been had before? What light can we shine into dark places? What can we learn from each other?

Sarah Kay Poetry

What have you learned from the kids that you have taught?

I have learned that the act of being vulnerable takes immense courage. I suppose I already knew that, but I am amazed and inspired every time a student is brave enough to share a vulnerable part of themselves with me. It is not something I take for granted. I have also learned it is my job as an educator to constantly be working on ways to make classrooms feel safer, for communities to grow stronger, so that students feel comfortable taking the risks needed to go to those vulnerable places.

Who inspires you and why?

So many people! Right now I am inspired by my friends the Word Warriors, a group of young poets in Kathmandu, Nepal. They have been building a community around poetry and performance and teaching workshops in schools all over Nepal. They are bright and smart and are doing wonderful work. I am also always inspired by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. She works harder than most people I know, and she proves that it is possible to be an artist and still be generous with resources and passionate about building and protecting a community.

What was the last book you read?

The last book of fiction I read was The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I devoured it in a matter of days. I do not know anything about baseball (which is the main topic of the book) but it did not matter and I adored it anyway. Harbach’s craft is impeccable. I finished the book and did not want to have to leave the world he had created. The last poetry book I read was Dear Darkness by Kevin Young. It might be the poetry book I always wished I could write. It is incredible.

If there is one lesson you have learned this far in life (thus far), what would it be?

Oh my. If there is only one lesson I have learned, then I have not been paying much attention. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that there is no substitute for time. Just because you care about someone, does not mean that they know you care about them. Thinking about them is not the same thing as calling them or seeing them or making the effort to reach out and make time for them. Because I travel constantly, it is really important for me to really make sure the folks I do not get to see often know that I love them and miss them. Postcards come in handy.

Any final words for the people out there who are willing to listen?

If you love poetry or art-making of any kind, make sure you are making a bit of time for it in your life. Once a week to write a poem, once a day to doodle in your notebook. Whatever you can manage. The important thing is to not lose sight of it entirely. I am extremely lucky I get to spend a lot of my time on my art, but there have been plenty of times when I could not, and there may be times to come when I can not. It does not matter if you have a day job or if you are not getting paid to do your art. It does not make you less of an artist or your art less worthy. Your responsibility is to find the time to do the things that bring you joy.

Sarah Kay’s new book No Matter the Wreckage will be published in March 2014. In the mean time, you can see more of her work in action here.

The Efthymiou Sisters


LONDON, United Kingdom — “For you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.” Lewis Carroll’s fantastical and much-loved novel “Alice in Wonderland” has long provided a fertile ground for artists and composers to draw inspiration from.

For award-winning composers and collaborators Litha and Effy Efthymiou, the book ignited a spark of an idea to create an immersive experience for the audience whereby they are unsure of what is real and what is not.

I meet up with Litha and Effy, both alumnae of the prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, to discuss their recent sell-out work, Parting, and the contemporary art music scene where they are fast becoming names to watch.

Parting. Photography by: Claire Shovelton.

The Efthymiou Sisters Interview

How would you describe yourselves and your genre of music and where do you fit in amongst your fellow composers?

Litha: We are composers of contemporary art music, which is concept music that is written now, for classically trained musicians and electronics. But our work is not straight composition; it is composition and theatre.

Effy: Most composers of contemporary art music are writing pure music; they might delve into multi-disciplinary work but the process they use is arguably isolated from the other disciplines.

Litha: The work of composer and director Heiner Goebbels is closest to what we do. He has a stake in both composing and directing.

Who or what inspires you when you are composing and creating works?

Effy: For me it is other music. If I am writing a violin solo, I will listen to violin solos, but not necessarily in the same style. It could be a Beethoven sonata – but it would give me inspiration.

Litha: It is really about being interested in everything. Flamenco, tango, ballet – we go and see everything. Every week I will see live theatre and live music – so it all has a massive influence.

The subject matters of your works have included neurological case studies, the crimes of Roman Emperor Nero and tales of delusion – is it fair to say your subject matter tends to be quite dark?

Effy: I would not say our music is light at the moment, but it could be. There must be a part of us that is attracted to writing dark music. It has a lot to do with music we have heard and liked, and the more moody music resonates with us. I like Shostakovich – his music is dark and grimy and raw. Being Londoners makes our music more edgy. We live in urban spaces with crime and grime and machines around us. Living in London is definitely an inspiration. The sonic landscape is so particular.

Parting. Photography by: Claire Shovelton.

Tell me about your most recent work, Parting, which sold out when it was performed at Kings Place earlier this year. What is the story behind it?

Effy: We had been looking at “Alice in Wonderland” and trying to combine it with the real world. We had worked with psychologist Dr Vaughan Bell on an earlier work, “Reminiscence”, and knew he had done research on what it is like to have an hallucination or delusion. He had analysed how films such as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Proof” can induce a delusion. So we asked Dr Bell if he wanted to collaborate as we thought the concept of using a film to manipulate beliefs could be transferred to music and contemporary art, and he provided us with case studies. Parting is a ‘living-through’ experience of psychosis. In March Parting was performed at the international venue Kings Place and it was well received.

Are there further plans for the work?

Effy: We are now seeking funding to take the work on tour. The plan is to perform it in different venues throughout England and Europe, which we hope to do in 2015/2016.

For details of upcoming performances of Litha and Effy’s work visit

David Bowie Exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum

LONDON, United Kingdom —  The beginning of Spring is marked by the David Bowie Exhibition at Victoria & Albert Museum that Londoners, including but not limited to fashionistas, are waiting eagerly. David Bowie, the great musical innovator and mercurial cultural icon of the Seventies, is to have a retrospective dedicated to his extraordinary legacy as a musical, artistic and fashion pioneer, called David Bowie is.

The Exhibition

The show is opening on 23 March 2013 and will boast over 300 rarely displayed objects such as handwritten lyrics, diary entries, unique photographs, costumes (including the iconic alien-like Ziggy Stardust suit worn for his 1972 Top of the Pops performance) and other personal effects from the David Bowie Archive. Victoria Broackes, one of the curators of the event, says:

Co-curator Geoffrey Marsh and I spent about 6 weeks in New York last year choosing exhibits and films from the David Bowie Archive. It comprises over 75,000 objects so it was challenging whittling it down to 300 or so to tell a good story. We decided early not to do a chronological exhibition, instead we are looking at him thematically.

The strong collection will reveal how the rather less glamorous David Jones born in the London suburb of Brixton transformed himself from a humble lad to the rock icon with the bleach-blonde mullet, frosted eye shadow and ruffles shirt who changed popular music forever.

“We kick the exhibition off in London and the suburbs because, although he left in 1974, there is something very British in the language of his imagination…And the evidence of his British, anticonformistic impact on fashion is everywhere, even the Creative Director of our exhibition sponsor Gucci, cites David Bowie as a major source of inspiration”, comments the curator.

“There is something very British in the language of his imagination”

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997
Union Jack coat designed by Alexander McQueen in collaboration with David Bowie

A Journey Through the Artistic Influences

The design of the exhibition aims to create a theatrical, immersive experience for the visitor, which is enhanced by Sennheiser sound technology. The curator explains, “Its aim is to take the visitor on a journey through the artistic influences that David Bowie has cited as formative including Surrealism, German Expressionism, cabaret and literature. In the second of the two galleries, large scale video projection installations will showcase performances from across Bowie’s 40 year career, including some exclusive unseen footage”.

“Its aim is to take the visitor on a journey through the artistic influences that David Bowie has cited as formative including Surrealism, German Expressionism, cabaret and literature.”

David Bowie’s influence over the last decades of the twentieth century has been unique in pop culture. His massive popularity was gained thanks to worldwide hit songs such as Space Oddity, the very first success dated 1969; Fame, his major first American crossover success on 1975; Ashes to Ashes in 1970 and Under Pressure, a 1981 collaboration with Queen.

More recent hits include Slow Burn in 2002 and Never Get Old in 2003. In the BBC‘s 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons he was placed at number 29, and throughout his career he has sold an estimated 140 million albums. In the UK he has been awarded 9 Platinum album certifications, 11 Gold and 8 Silver and in the US, a total of 12 Platinum and Gold certifications. In 2004, the magazine Rolling Stone ranked him 39th on their list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, and 23rd on their list of the best singers of all times.

Be ahead of the crowd and pre-order the book David Bowie is!

Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour 1973. Design by Kansai Yamamoto.