“It’s not spoken word… it’s silently-whisper-into-the-dark-corners-of-my-closet-*dramatic pause*-word.”
Apparently, my definition was amusing enough for my roommate to share it as a status update. Personally, I’d find it a little funnier if it weren’t bitterly true. Empty walls and dirty windshields have been my only audience for quite some time.
Knowing my love for poetry, the same roommate recommended that I watch Sarah Kay‘s performance on TED talks. Tonight, I finally did and it’s worth every second. You should watch it, if only the poem at the beginning.
As she shares her dreams for her hypothetical daughter, I found myself smiling- thinking if I ever have kids, I want to write them poetry like that. Poetry like my mom wrote for me growing up, words that capture the moment and refuse to allow time to tarnish the memories.
According to Sarah, all you need to know are a few things that are true and you can create a poem. Her theory is put into practice in her efforts to empower students through Project V.O.I.C.E.
“Conceived in 2004, Project V.O.I.C.E. encourages young people to engage with the world around them and use Spoken Word Poetry as an instrument through which they can explore and better understand their culture, their society, and ultimately themselves”. – from their website.
When confronted with the task of explaining how she went from a timid teenager to an renowned poet, Sarah revealed her three step progression from hiding under bars in poetry clubs to encouraging students to take the stage themselves.
- “I can. I can do this.” – first we must recognize that we can do something. We can build connections with people, we can share our stories, and we can make a difference in the lives of others by simply expressing ourselves. (Her explanation of the three steps begins at 7:50)
- “I will. I will continue”- it isn’t enough to know that you can do something, you must decide to do it. Sarah spent years studying poetry by listening to others share their stories, but it was her willingness to continue learning by taking the stage that really began the transformation. (8:01)
- “grow, explore, take risks and challenge yourself- infusing the work you are doing with the specific things that make you you even while those things are always changing because step three never ends” (13:30) – it’s all encompassing and continually changing, and we must actively respond to and intertwine what we do, what we know, and who we are… and share it with others.
While I am challenged by Sarah’s words because I love her medium of expression, I think anyone can glean wisdom from her journey. How many things do we refuse to acknowledge we could do? How many times to we refuse to do the things that we already know we could accomplish? And, how often do we stop allowing ourselves to be challenged to grow by preventing what we do from being infused with who we are and what we know to be true?
Perhaps I should share my stories with more than the dark corners of my closet, and perhaps you should too. I’m not suggesting that we all literally take the stage to share a poem (though perhaps I literally should given how often I talk to myself in empty rooms). Just take a moment to ponder this:what would happen if we each were vulnerable enough to express ourselves?
Whether it be through spoken word, art, music, story telling, or something completely different… what would happen if we shared a little more of who we are and what we know to be true with the world? What if we took the time to encourage someone else to share and actually listened to their story? Perhaps, just maybe, we would build a connection with someone else who ‘feels’ what we are saying. And, perhaps those connections would inspire more people to express themselves while empowering others to do the same.