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Book Review No Matter The Wreckage by Sarah Kay


Candice Martini

NEW YORK, United States — After a long awaited compilation of 10 years, Sarah Kay finally publishes her collection of poems which can only be described as brutally raw, naked and hopeful, which is aptly titled No Matter the Wreckage.

No Matter The Wreckage

Most known for her spoken word poetry and work with Project VOICE, Sarah Kay manages to pull us into her world through her masterful art of painting pictures with letters. One minute you are in India tasting the sweetness of mangoes, the next you are in Hiroshima staring at the metaphorical rubble. And then again, you are brought to post-apartheid Cape Town where you can almost smell the rusty cage in which pigeons were housed. She is unafraid to bring you into her world, and bares her soul for the world to see, and that it is alright to be imperfect. She shows us at all times that she is willing to learn from experiences and to take life lessons away from it.

Some of the poems are not new to those who have followed her videos on YouTube and seen her TEDtalks, so they will be accustomed to infamous pieces such as B, Shosholoza, Montauk et Private Parts. Poems as such, you would doubt, might not have translated well into written form, but it does so perfectly in a different perspective. It is like watching a really good film, and then reading the book and taking a slightly different experience away with it, like reading Lord of the Rings after watching the film, and still enjoying the book afterwards.

Sarah Kay
No Matter The Wreckage – Sarah Kay

In Something We Don’t Talk About, Part I, Sarah manages to show honesty in domestic life and that every family has issues in their own way. Another being Hand-Me-Downs, shows how we can inherit traits from our family, and it may not always necessarily be a beautiful thing. Something We Don’t Talk About, Part II features a deep and naked honesty:

How many times I said yes
How many times I said yes and yes and yes
Because it was what you wanted to hear
And what I wanted you to hear
And what I wanted to want

In No Matter the Wreckage, Sarah manages to give us more of a glimpse into her thoughts and experiences, and each and every one, some sounding like simple and mundane actions which are given a breath of life you would never expect, and others such as Subway, a piece which brings you to the underground of New York and illustrates a perfectly a simple picture of what it feels like to take the subway while it is raining.

The great thing about Sarah Kay is that she not only manages to show you the sadness and rawness of reality, but also the joys in the little things. One of my personal favourites is the playful play on words And Found. Brilliantly simple, I have taken an excerpt that goes:

Don’t sit there.
You might knock over the pile of confidence I took all day to stack.

Simple unadulterated play on words and metaphors. One of Sarah Kay’s key skills is to make everything relatable. Common experiences which we sometimes fail to take notice of just because we are clouded by the white noise around us. One such poem is Love Poem #137 that goes:

My hair is in the shower drain,
my smell on your sweaters,
bobby pins all over the window sills.
I make the best sandwiches you’ve ever tasted.
You’ll be in charge of napkins.
I can’t do a pull-up.
But I’m great at excuses.

Poets as such are few and far between, and if this is what Sarah Kay has to offer in her 20’s I cannot begin to imagine what her life long career and future works will be like. Well, it is an outstanding collection of poems which I do not want to give away too much of, but this collection will only make you wish there was a volume 2. Let’s hope we do not have to wait another 10 years for such brilliance.

Sarah also speaks to us a little bit more about the conception of No Matter the Wreckage.

Sarah Kay
No Matter The Wreckage – Sarah Kay

Sarah Kay: Interview

What made you so willing to reveal so much more about your family history in this collection?

I say this pretty often, but it continues to be true: I use poetry to figure things out. Anything I am wrestling with is what usually ends up appearing in my poetry. Since No Matter the Wreckage includes poetry from a span of ten years of my life, it was inevitable that at some point my family would be included, since there were plenty of times in that decade when I was navigating family dynamics and history. However, plenty of times, a poem is not necessarily about my family, but my family is serving as the setting for the actual subject of the poem. Forest Fires is a good example. It is technically about my ailing grandmother and my father’s grief. But I wrote the poem after a pattern had developed in my life that resulted in me having “near-misses” with great tragedies. That is what I was really puzzling over in this poem: how do I heal from something I did not actually witness?

Sarah speaks briefly about this in the introduction for Forest Fires.

Which of your poems did you just have to include into this collection?

Actually, it was more a question of which poems could I leave out. It was tricky balancing the spoken word favourites and the poems that were written for the page. Creating a cohesive whole that had some sort of underlying structure was important to me, and the order of poems needed to support the flow of stories, ideas, and character development. Poems that did get left out may stay in the drawer, or they may get included in another book. We will see.

Which is the poem that you feel the need to share with others the most?

Hmmm. At any given time and place, it is never the same poem. I believe different people need different poems. That is why I love performing poems for live audiences. I like the challenge of trying to figure out what that room full of people needs or wants on that particular night. I also love that this book will let people read straight through, or pick it up and put it down in order to find the one poem that speaks to them today. I guess right now the poem I am thinking about the most is the poem Ghost Ship, a line from which inspired the title for this collection. I am proud of the conversation it is engaging with and grateful that I can share it with folks through this book.

You can see Sarah perform her latest poem Ghost Ship live and pick up her latest book No Matter The Wreckage which is available on Amazon.

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