Sarah Kay, Poetess/Storyteller | TEDxEast


Translator: Capa Girl
Reviewer: Diba Szamosi (Singing) I see the moon.
The moon sees me. The moon sees somebody that I don’t see. God bless the moon, and god bless me, and God bless that somebody
that I don’t see. If I get to heaven, before you do, I’ll make a hole and pull you through. And I’ll write your name, on every star, and that way the world, won’t seem so far. The astronaut will not be at work today. He has called in sick. He has turned off his cell phone,
his laptop, his pager, his alarm clock. There is a fat yellow cat
asleep on his couch, rain drops against the window, and not even the hint
of coffee in the kitchen air. Everybody is in a tizzy. The engineers on the 15th floor have
stopped working on their particle machine. The anti gravity room is leaking and even the freckled kid with glasses, whose only job is to take
out the trash, is nervous, fumbles the bag, spills
a banana peel and a paper cup. Nobody notices. They are too busy recalculating
what this all mean for lost time. How many galaxies
are we losing per second. How long before next rocket
can be launched, somewhere. An electron flies off its energy cloud. A black hole has erupted. A mother finishes setting
the table for dinner. A Law & Order marathon is starting. The astronaut is asleep. He has forgotten to turn off his watch, which ticks, like a metal
pulse against his wrist. He does not hear it. He dreams of coral reefs and plankton. His fingers find
the pillowcase’s sailing masts. He turns on his side.
Opens his eyes at once. He thinks that scuba divers must have
the most wonderful job in the world. So much water to glide through! (Applause) Thank you. When I was little, I could
not understand the concept that you could only live one life. I don’t mean this metaphorically. I mean, I literally thought
that I was going to get to do everything that there was to do and be everything there was to be. It was only a matter of time. Ad there was no limitation
based on age, or gender, or race or even appropriate time period. I was sure that I was going
to actually experience what it felt like to be a leader
of the civil right movement, or a ten-year old boy living
on a farm during the dust bowl, or an emperor of the Tang
dynasty in China. My mom says that when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my typical
response was princess-ballerina-astronaut. And what she doesn’t understand
is that I wasn’t trying to invent some combined
super profession. I was listing things I thought
I was gonna get to be: a princess, and a ballerina,
and an astronaut. and I’m pretty sure the list
probably went on from there. I usually just got cut off. It was never a question
of if I was going to do something so much of a question of when. And I was sure that if I was going
to do everything, that it probably meant I had
to move pretty quickly, because there was a lot
of stuff I needed to do. So my life was constantly
in a state of rushing. I was always scared
that I was falling behind. And since I grew up in New York
City, as far as I could tell, rushing was pretty normal. But, as I grew up, I had
this sinking realization, that I wasn’t gonna get to live
any more than one life I only knew what it felt
like to be a teenage girl in New York City, not a teenage boy in New Zealand, not a prom queen in Kansas. I only got to see through my lens
and it was around this time that I became obsessed with stories, because it was through stories
that I was able to see through someone else’s lens,
however briefly or imperfectly. And I started craving hearing
other people’s experiences because I was so jealous
that there were entire lives that I was never going to get
to live, and I wanted to hear about everything that I was missing. And by transitive property, I realized that some people were never going
to get to experience what it felt like to be a teenage girl in New York city. Which meant that they weren’t
going to know what the subway ride
after your first kiss feels like, or how quiet it gets when its snows, and I wanted them to know,
I wanted to tell them and this became the focus of my obsession. I busied myself telling stories
and sharing stories and collecting them. And it’s not until recently
that I realized that I can’t always rush poetry. In April for National Poetry Month
there’s this challenge that, many poets in the poetry
community participate in, and its called the 30/30 Challenge. The idea is you write
a new poem every single day
for the entire month of April. And last year I tried it for the first
time, and I was thrilled by the efficiency at which I was able
to produce poetry. But at the end of the month I looked
back at these 30 poems I had written, and discovered that they were
all trying to tell the same story, it had just taken me 30 tries to figure
out the way that it wanted to be told. And I realized that this is probably true
of other stories on an even larger scale. I have stories that I have
tried to tell for years, rewriting and rewriting and constantly
searching for the right words. There’s a French poet, an essayist
by the name of Paul Valery who said a poem is never
finished, it is only abandoned. And this terrifies me
because it implies that I could keep reediting and rewriting
forever and its up to me to decide when a poem is finished and when
I can walk away from it. And this goes directly against my very
obsessive nature to try to find the right answer, and the perfect
words, and the right form. And I use poetry in my life, as a way to help me navigate
and work through things. But just because I end the poem,
doesn’t mean that I’ve solved whatever I was puzzling through. I like to revisit old poetry, because it shows me exactly
where I was at that moment. And what it was I was trying
to navigate and the words that I chose to help me. Now, I have a story that I’ve been stumbling
over for years and years and I’m not sure if I’ve found
the prefect form, or whether this is just one attempt and I will try to rewrite it later in search of a better way to tell it. But I do know that later, when I look back I will be able to know
that this is where I was at this moment, and this
is what I was trying to navigate, with these words, here,
in this room, with you. So — Smile. It didn’t always work this way. There is a time you have
to get your hands dirty. When you were in the dark,
for most of it, fumbling was a given, and you needed more
contrast, more saturation, darker darks, and brighter brights. They called it extended development.
It meant you spent longer inhaling chemicals,
longer up to your wrist. It wasn’t always easy. Grandpa Stewart was a navy photographer. Young, red-faced
with the sleeves rolled up, fists of fingers like fat rolls of coins, he looked like Popeye
the sailor man, come to life. Crooked smile, tuft of chest hair, he showed up at World War II,
with a smirk and a hobby. When they asked him if he knew
much about photography, he lied, learned to read
Europe like a map, upside down, from the height
of a fighter plane, camera snapping, eyelids
flapping, the darkest darks and brightest brights. He learned war like he could
read his way home. When other men returned,
they would put their weapons out to rest, but he, brought the lenses
and the cameras home with him. Opened a shop, turned it
into a family affair. My father was born into this
world of black and white. His basketball hands learned
the tiny clicks and slides of lens into frame, film into camera, chemical into plastic bin. His father knew the equipment
but not the art. He knew the darks but not the brights. My father learned the magic,
spent his time following light. Once he traveled across the country
to follow a forest fire, hunted it with his camera for a week. “Follow the light,” he said. “Follow the light.” There are parts of me
I only recognize from photographs. The loft on Wooster street
with the creaky hallways, the twelve-foot ceilings,
the white walls and cold floors. This was my mothers home,
before she was mother. Before she was wife, she was artist. And the only two rooms in the house, with walls that reached
all the way up to the ceiling, and doors that opened and closed, were the bathroom and the dark room. The dark room she built
herself, with custom made stainless steel sinks,
an 8 by 10 bed enlarger that moved up and down by a giant
hand crank, a bank of color balanced lights, a white glass wall for viewing prints, a drying rack that moved
in and out from the wall. My mother built herself a dark room. Made it her home. Fell in love with a man
with basketball hands, with the way he looked at light. They got married. Had a baby. Moved to a house near a park. But they kept the loft at Wooster street for birthday parties and treasure hunts. The baby tipped the gray scale. Filled her parents’ photo
albums with red balloons and yellow icing. The baby grew into a girl
without freckles, with a crooked smile, who didn’t understand why her friends did
not have dark rooms in their houses, who never saw her parents kiss, who never saw them hold hands. But one day, another baby showed up. This one with perfect straight
hair and bubble gum cheeks. They named him sweet potato. When he laughed, he laughed so loudly, he scared the pigeons on the fire escape And the four of them lived
in that house near the park. The girl with no freckles,
and the sweet potato boy, the basketball father,
and the dark room mother and they lit their candles,
and they said their prayers, and the corners of the photographs curled. One day some towers fell and the house near the park became
a house under ash, so they escaped. In backpacks, on bicycles to darkrooms
but the loft of Wooster street was built for an artist,
not a family of pigeons and walls that do not reach the ceiling do not hold in the yelling and a man with basketball hands
put his weapons out to rest. He could not fight this war
and no maps pointed home. His hands no longer fit his camera, no longer fit his wife’s, no longer fit his body. The sweet potato boy mashed
his fists into his mouth until he had nothing more to say. So, the girl without freckles
went treasure hunting on her own. And on Wooster street, in a building
with a creaky hallways, and a loft of the 12-foot ceiling and a darkroom with too many sinks under the color balance
light, she found a note, tacked to the wall thumb-tacked, left
over from the times before towers, from the time before babies. And the note said: “A guy sure loves
the girl who works in the darkroom.” It was a year before my father
picked up a camera again. His first time out, he followed
the Christmas lights, dotting their way through New
York City’s trees. Tiny dots of light, blinking out of him
from out of the darkest darks. A year later he traveled
across the country to follow a forest fire, stayed for a week hunting
it with his camera, it was ravaging the West Coast eating 18-wheeler trucks in its stride. On the other side of the country, I went to class and wrote a poem
on the margins of my notebook. We have both learned the art of capture. Maybe we are learning
the art of embracing. Maybe we are learning
the art of letting go. Thank You. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Sarah Kay, Poetess/Storyteller | TEDxEast

  1. I'm sorry but this is poor. This tryhard shit isn't good storytelling. A true great storyteller was my aged republican grandfather whose deep silky baritone carried with it years of unstated experience and emotion. Controlled but coyly smug, knowing yet still filled with a zest for life. Lesson was found at every turn. this is pathetic

  2. You are a profound storyteller, thank you for sharing. & your jacket is so beautiful!

  3. Sarah is extremely engaging and talented. What an impactful talk! Thank you Sarah and keep sharing stories please!

  4. ERIC R BINFORD MR INNOVATOR

    THANK YOU
    SARAH K POET
    STORY TELLER
    &
    Inc.Ted x talks

    MR, innovator wants to
    ask you
    SARAH Kay the
    POET

    THE TRUE LIGHT
    DOESN'T HAVE
    SHADOW

    I KNOW
    I'VE BEEN THERE

    AND CAME BACK
    AND ACKNOWLEDGE
    THE SHADOW IN THE LIGHT

    ITS THE LIGHT
    AT THE END OF
    THE TUNNEL……

    thanks NPR
    & great
    sustain
    believers
    good morning
    TO ALL LISTENER'S
    This isn't
    personal personally…

  5. She sure can tell a story… kept my breathing shallow, till it solidified in my throat…then you swallow it down and carry on…

  6. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing your gifts with the Universe!!! 😀 #GIVELOVE

  7. She and all her poetry sweated out are so beautiful. Fell in love with her first time I saw her talking.

  8. Very few artists can' express their hearts and minds as honestly and eloquently as this. Even owning her tendency to rush – which is the only thing I found a tad unsettling in her presentation. But what an amazing talent she has to conjure up images of beauty, sadness & yearning with such Joi de Vivre! Thank God for her.

  9. imagine 50 year old Sarah poetry ! because she's just in her twenties and she finds amazing ways to mix words and create the mist beautiful images…

  10. there's something so amazing about her eyes. they always seem so big and bright and passionate

  11. "Although some use stories as entertainment alone, tales are, in their oldest sense, a healing art. Some are called to this healing art; and the best, to my lights, are those who have lain with the story and found all its matching parts inside themselves and at depth. In the best tellers I know, the stories grow out of their lives like roots grow a tree. The stories have grown them into who they are. " – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

    Sarah Kay is a healing poet, obviously.

  12. I'm very impressed with this young ladies art of presentation, her story telling skills are almost without equal.Long may she continue to be thus and carry on entertaining us.

  13. learning the art of letting go is sometimes the most painful, but most important lesson.

  14. It didn’t always work this way.
    There was a time you had to get your hands dirty,
    When you were in the dark for most of it, fumbling was a given.
    If you needed more contrast, more saturation-
    darker darks and brighter brights-
    they called it extended development.
    It meant you spent longer inhaling chemicals,
    longer up to your wrists. It wasn’t always easy.

    Grandpa Steward was a Navy photographer.
    Young, red-faced, with his sleeves rolled up.
    Fists of fingers like fat rolls of coins,
    He looked like Popeye the Sailor Man come to life.
    Crooked smile, tuft of chest hair,
    He showed up to World War II with a smirk and a hobby.
    When they asked him if he knew much about photography, he lied.
    Learned to read Europe like a map, upside down from the height of a fighter plane.
    Camera snapping, eyelids flapping,
    The darkest darks, and brightest brights,
    He learned war like he could read his way home.
    When other mean returned, they put their weapons out to rust,
    But he brought the lenses and the cameras home with him.
    Opened a shop. Turned it into a family affair.

    My father was born into this world of black and white.
    His basketball hands learned the tiny clicks and slides of lens into frame,
    Film into camera,
    Chemical into plastic bin.
    His father knew the equipment, but not the art.
    He knew the darks, but not the brights.
    My father learned the magic, spent his time following light.
    Once he travelled across the country to follow a forest fire.
    Hunted it with his camera for a week.
    Follow the light, he said. Follow the light.

    There are parts of me I only recognize from photographs.
    The loft on Wooster Street, with the creaky hallways,
    The twelve-foot ceilings, white walls and cold floors.
    This was my mother’s home.
    Before she was mother, before she was wife, she was artist.
    And the only two rooms in the house with walls that reached all the way up to the ceiling
    And doors that opened and closed
    Were the bathroom and the darkroom.
    The darkroom she built herself,
    With custom-made stainless steel sinks,
    An 8×10 bed enlarger that moved up and down by a giant hand-crank,
    A bank of color-balanced lights,
    A white glass wall for viewing prints,
    A drying rack that moved in and out from the wall.
    My mother built herself a darkroom.
    Made it her home.
    Fell in love with a man with basketball hands,
    With the way he looked at light.

    They got married, had a baby, moved to a house near a park.
    But they kept the loft on Wooster Street for birthday parties and treasure hunts.
    The baby tipped the greyscale,
    Filled her parents’ photo albums with red balloons and yellow icing.
    The baby grew into a girl without freckles,
    With a crooked smile,
    Who didn’t understand why her friends did not have darkrooms in their houses,
    Who never saw her parents kiss,
    Who never saw them hold hands.
    But one day another baby showed up –
    This one with perfect straight hair and bubblegum cheeks –
    They named him Sweet Potato and when he laughed,
    He laughed so loudly he scared the pigeons on the fire escape.
    And the four of them lived in that house near the park:
    The Girl With No Freckles, the Sweet Potato Boy,
    The Basketball Father, and Darkroom Mother,
    And they lit their candles and said their prayers
    And the corners of the photographs curled.

    One day some towers fell.
    And the house near the park became a house under ash,
    So they escaped in backpacks, on bicycles, to darkrooms.
    But the loft on Wooster Street was built for an artist,
    Not a family of pigeons.
    And walls that do not reach the ceiling do not hold in the yelling.
    And the man with the basketball hands put his weapons out to rust.
    He could not fight this war, and no maps pointed home.
    His hands no longer fit his camera,
    No longer fit his wife’s,
    No longer fit his body.
    The Sweet Potato Boy mashed his fists into his mouth until he had nothing more to say,
    So the Girl Without Freckles went treasure-hunting on her own.

    And on Wooster Street,
    In the building with the creaky hallways,
    In the loft with the twelve-foot ceilings,
    And the darkroom with too many sinks,
    Under the color-balanced lights,
    She found a note tacked to the wall with a thumbtack,
    Left over from a time before towers
    From a time before babies.
    And the note said, “A guy sure loves a girl who works in the darkroom.”

    It was a year before my father picked up a camera again.
    His first time out,
    He followed the Christmas lights dotting their way through New York City’s trees –
    Tiny dots of light blinking out at him from out of the darkest darks.
    A year later, he travelled across the country to follow a forest fire.
    Stayed for a week hunting it with his camera.
    It was ravaging the west coast,
    Eating eighteen-wheeler trucks in its stride.
    On the other side of the country, I went to class
    And wrote a poem in the margins of my notebook.
    We have both learned the art of capture.
    Maybe we are learning the art of embracing.
    Maybe we are learning the art of letting go.

  15. 5:05 to 5:46= thank you for your wisdom. incredible speech. got me hooked on your artistry lol.

  16. I see the moon.
    The moon sees me.
    The moon sees somebody that I don't see.

    God bless the moon,
    and god bless me,
    and god bless the somebody I don't see.

    If i get to heaven,
    before you do,
    I'll make a hole,
    and pull you through,
    and I'll write your name
    on every star
    and that way the world won't seem so far.

  17. After watching this video, I'm completely speechless. The way she expressed herself was undeniably beautiful and inspiring 😍

  18. This girl is fantastic by all respects and good wishes for her

  19. sarah's not bad, but i have never looked at poetry as competition…i dont think you can compare one poet's mode of expression against another's… and some slam poets are so crass and over the top; i have been to poetry slams, which everything was heavily orchastrated…some poets arrive with their groupies in tow, telling them when to clap when to cheer; and some readings are so rigged…i just don't care for slam…there's a difference between reciting a poem and just standing on stage, yelling b.s. trying to be cool….which is why i'll never watch slam poetry again

  20. When I listen to you I get lost in my own thoughts sometimes I pause the video to complete my thought and sometimes I forget to pause. My thoughts are like screams of crying baby hungry to be heard.

  21. 個人の話が、家族の話がこんなにも深く感じるなんて驚きです。

  22. She amazing in telling stories…but somewhere i could not follow her,i got lost due to her gestures too much… she spoke too fast mostly

  23. wwwwwwwwwwoooooooooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwyeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh

  24. wow she's beautiful, clever, creative, very open-minded, inspiring… and I'm not surprised since she's japanese/jewish, possibly 2 of the most intellectual races on earth 🙂

  25. I usually dont like poetry and I do not know how i am here.. but the last one was really dope

  26. Honestly the first time i watched her, it became hard for me to listen to others. It's just, the way she delivers her poetry is so relaxing while everyone kinda shouts at some point. I just– gosh im obsessed

  27. I cried in this poem. I always have a soft spot for poetry. I wanna write some, but my confidence keeps draining and mu confusion keeps raising….

  28. I first saw this poem my sophomore year. I've loved spoken word for so long now that I forgot this one even existed. It's still so beautiful it makes me want to cry.

  29. I'm so down to earth
    And you're up in the stars
    So show me the sea
    And I'll take you to Mars.

  30. "As a child, one has that magical capacity to move among the many eras of the earth," "to see the land as an animal does; to experience the sky from the perspective of a flower or a bee; to feel the earth quiver and breathe beneath us; to know a hundred different smells of mud and listen unselfconsciously to the soughing of the trees." Valerie Andrews in A Passion for this Earth;

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