MOSAIC Brings Spoken Word Poet Sarah Kay to Andover, Highlighting the Accessibility of Poetry

Reflecting on her own high school experience, Sarah Kay chose po- ems to perform that she related to as a teen.

Sonia Appen ’24 and Sophia Walker ’24 get their copies of Sarah Kay’s “No Matter the Wreckage” signed after the performance.

After an opening by the Co-Heads of MOSAIC, Andover’s Mixed Heritage Affinity Group, and student poet Kashvi Ramani ’24, spoken word poet Sarah Kay performed poems about love, nature, and identity to faculty and students.

Hosted by MOSAIC, Kay led an interactive poetry workshop before the performance, as well as a book signing and meet and greet afterward. Kay discussed what she hoped students would gain from her visit and how her background has influenced her poetry.

“I hope they had a fun night and maybe found an entry point to poetry if they hadn’t had one before… I come from a background of performance, so a lot of my poetry has conversational elements or sounds [in] the way I speak, as opposed to being incredibly stylized. I think I speak the way I write and write the way I speak,” said Kay.

Ramani, who performed before Kay with her signature poem, “My Dodda in a Day,” cited Kay as one of her greatest poetic inspirations. She explained how Kay’s exploration of identity has helped shape her creative journey and writing style.

“A lot of my poems have storyline structures to [them], similar to how Sarah Kay has hers. I drew most of my inspiration from her when I was younger… I love the way that she speaks in between her work, so it still sounds like a poem, even when she isn’t presenting,” said Ramani.

Camila McGinley ’23, board member of MOSAIC and one of the event’s hosts, commented on the club’s inspiration behind this speaker event and how her mixed heritage aligned with MOSAIC’s mission to represent mixed artists like Kay.

“A lot of mixed heritage members in MOSAIC were very interested in Sarah Kay, and there’s a lot of writers we worked with. Also, the Pariah and board members were really inspired by her. We wanted to bring some representation that our group members see themselves as and wanted,” said McGinley.

Aya Murata, MOSAIC’s faculty advisor and Associate Director of College Counseling, discussed the meaning and significance behind Kay’s work and visit. She touched on how Kay presented poetry to students in a welcoming manner, in a way that helped deconstruct common misconceptions of poetry as a gatekept pedestal.

“I think there’s, and I would include myself in this, a fear or like ‘I don’t understand poetry,’ so I think Sarah Kay makes poetry very accessible. I think as young people before you close any doors, like ‘Oh, poetry’s not for me’ or ‘I don’t get it’ or ‘It’s super complicated’ or ‘I would never write or read it’… They [should] walk away saying ‘Hey, maybe this is appealing to me, and I should go on YouTube and learn more about it or maybe next time a spoken word poet is advertised I’ll just go rather than get dragged there by a friend,’” said Murata.

Similarly, audience member Germán Sanz-Rios ’24 talked about how Kay helped highlight the conversationality and approachability of her work. Specifically, Sanz-Rios reflected on the authenticity of Kay’s transitions between poems.

“I like the part when she transitions to other poems, you could tell she was picking poems based on how she’s feeling or what she wanted to talk about. It seems like the transitions were more natural than practiced. I thought that you could see who she was as a person rather than practiced poems. The transitions were more impactful,” said Sanz-Rios.

Bringing Kay to Andover’s campus offered valuable opportunities for students to delve into poetry and its intersections with identity. MOSAIC board member Will Boo ’23 highlighted Kay’s last poem as one of his favorite parts of her visit, discussing its exploration of the inherent connections between nature and art.

“I don’t really have the authority to tell people what they should or shouldn’t take from Kay’s performance, but I think that the fundamental piece of her performance was that last poem, where she talked about nature as a ready written poem and our jobs as human beings to pay attention to the world. That’s what I took away from it, at least,” said Boo.