Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye Share Spoken Word Poetry

Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, co-directors of Project Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression (Project VOICE) and a spoken word poet duo, visited Andover last Friday to share their unique art form of spoken word poetry.

A large group of students and faculty members came to Kay and Kaye’s performance in Kemper Auditorium. The poets immediately captured the audience’s attention with a powerful collaborative performance of Kaye’s poem about poetry itself, “She Asks Me.”

Throughout the night, both Kay and Kaye performed several poems with different themes, some light and some more serious and contemplative. Kay’s first solo performance at Andover was a reading of her poem, “Brother,” one of the more light-hearted poems presented that evening.

“I thought that [Kay] really put a lot of feelings in her poetry and she projected that in her voice and presence too. Her performance of ‘Brother’ was really inspiring. I really liked that one because it reminds me of my brother, it’s very relatable,” said Lily Rockefeller ’14.

Following Kay’s performance of “Brother,” Kaye slowly drew the audience into a more contemplative mood with his poem, “Geico Gecko.” By speaking with a Cockney accent and mimicking the movement of a gecko, Kaye created the illusion that he was the iconic “Geico Gecko.”

At the end of the performance, Kaye left the audience with chills and to ponder about the buried true emotions and identity.

Kay then resumed her performance with a poem she presented at her TEDTalk, “If I Should Have a Daughter.” Kay’s use of hand and body gestures strengthened the messages about life and confidence carried by her poem.

Continuing with the alternation of performances, Kaye’s “Suburbia” came next. A native of a Californian suburb, Kaye presented a different take on the society, including a mention of suburban life, through his structural performance choices.

There was a moment of silence as the audience found themselves reflecting on Kaye’s thought-provoking and complex artistic interpretation of conformity and modern society.

The highlight of the evening’s performance was when Kay poked at what many audience members were probably wondering about: “Why do they [Kay and Kaye] have the same last name?”

Revealing an entertaining background story to their eerie similarities, Kay and Kaye collaborated in the performance of their poem, “An Origin Story.”

To list some of the two poets’ similarities, both Kay and Kaye have a Jewish father and a Japanese mother. They met at Brown University at a freshmen talent show where both of them performed spoken word poetry. They went to the same summer program but never crossed paths. Both have a younger, nineteen-year-old sibling. Yet, Kay and Kaye do not share any biological relationship.

By the end of the night, the Andover community was in awe at the spoken word poet duo. Before closing their performance, Kay performed “Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire,” “Private Parts” and a closing homage to her junior school principal, Mrs. Rivera, while Kaye performed equally impressive poems “Teeth” and “Repetition.” Kay and Kaye’s collaboration on a poem about what love is was the finale act of the spoken word poetry night.

Fatima Liaqat ’12 and Amina Gomez ’12 invited Kay and Kaye to come to Andover with their Project VOICE.

“I wanted to do something amazing before I graduate, so I decided to bring someone who I originally thought would be a long shot—[Kay] and [Kaye]. [Gomez] and I applied for an Abbot Grant to make all this happen. We wanted them to do a performance and a workshop because I just want everyone to feel what I feel: to want to go out and do something amazing,” said Liaqat.

Following the performance, Kay and Kaye hosted a workshop in the Underwood Room on Saturday morning. Guiding students through the writing and poetry performing process, Kay and Kaye used video clips of SLAM poetry performances and interactive word-based activities that would help the participating students find their inner spoken word poet.

“It kind of started unintentionally. Both of us already had educational gigs; we had syllabi and were really invested in not just performing but also teaching. After performing in my old high school and a big public school in California, we looked at each other and thought, ‘We could do this [teach and tour].’ That ‘Ahha!’ moment about poetry still happen to us and spoken word has been so important to both of us that we wanted to facilitate that to youth everywhere,” said Kaye.

Kay and Kaye emphasized to the workshop participants how poetry does not have to be grand or abstract. Everyday traits and events can make authentic and interesting poems.

“Spoken word poetry is a combination of poetry and theater. I love this art form because I get to have an immediate connection to my audience; you get to have that shared breath,” said Kay about her opinion on spoken word poetry.