Amanda Gorman and Sarah Kay
I don’t understand why I am so driven. I grasp some significant reasons, like my family moving to Mt. Lebanon, PA, at the end of my elementary school in Pennsauken, NJ. I learned two things living in Mt. Lebanon and attending school there; I was dumb and poor. Dancing with death a couple of times woke me up to living. The third transformation was discovering my family near Inle Lake, Myanmar.
Moving to Mt. Lebanon and doing the dances were initially seen as negative. However, both those curses became blessings. Finding my family started as a blessing, which is now a blessing on steroids. If you morph Mt. Lebanon, my dances, and finding my family together, it will explain why I am still teaching at the college level at 78.
Additionally, it also explains my drive to help my three granddaughters. Ti Ti is the oldest. We met on my first journey to Myanmar when she was a nine-year-old kid. She wanted to play Scrabble with me.
That kid is now seventeen and is a student at Gusto University. I think that Ti Ti got her good looks and IQ from my side of the family.
In a recent essay, I had some follow-up thoughts from my article about Ti Ti’s birthday. I made some suggestions to help her as she journeyed down her yellow brick road of life. I reflected upon the importance of poetry to me. I will be 80 years old in less than a year and a half, but I ain’t quietly retired in a nursing home. Interestingly, Dylan Thomas’ poem, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night, is my mantra.
Sandy, who is my web administrator, reads everything that she posts to my website. My encouraging Ti Ti to write poetry resulted in Sandy emailing about her poetic drive. Sandy provided two links to two poets that she liked at the end of her email: Sarah Kay and Toni Morrison. Morrison is a poet that everyone knows. Several months ago, I wrote an essay related to Morrison’s thoughts about racism, and I reference them related to the white cop who murdered George Floyd.
Sarah Kay is a poet, about whom I knew nothing. Sandy provided a link to one of her poems, “B.” Kay’s poem fascinated me at two levels. The first level is that almost every poem that I know I read in books or on the Internet. I can only think of four poems that the poet recited the poem rather than me reading it. Interestingly, all were poems read at four presidential inaugurations. Robert Frost at JFK’s, Maya Angelou at Bill Clinton’s, Elizabeth Alexander and Barack Obama’s, and Amanda Gorman at Joe Biben’s inauguration.
Amanda Gorman’s presentation fascinated me. Her words were underlined by the movements with her hands, her eyes, and her smile. Thinking back on her presentation, I wonder why others before her didn’t say, “I’m going to recite my poem with more than my words.”
However, Sarah Kay moved that poetic modus operandi a step higher. She and Gorman moved their hands, eyes, and smile, but Kay presented her poem as if she was just chatting with one person, you. That is connecting with the listener on steroids.
Now, go to this link, which contains the video of her poetically talking to you. Scroll down a bit, and you will find her poem written out like what I am used to.
This video is Sarah Kay’s What We Build.
Kay can address joy while facing uncertainty and suffering. She speaks to me as I journey down my yellow brick road in my twilight years.
This video is Kay reading her favorite poem written by Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie about the sinking of the Titanic.
I was looking for a horizontal picture of Sarah Kay on the Internet, which I would use in this essay. And then it happened. Then I noticed the website, Asia Society, with this headline:
Interview: Across Asia, Sarah Kay Is
Dynamic Ambassador for Spoken Word
As I read through the article, I stopped for a moment and read and reread one sentence. Kay’s one-line was, “In December 2012, I was the recipient of a U.S. Department of State Federal Assistance Award through the American Embassy in Nepal that allowed me to lead a multi-faceted spoken word poetry education platform at nine different schools in Kathmandu.” A couple paragraphs later, I saw this photo.
I replaced Kay’s face with mine in a nanosecond. My mind flooded with memories of times with similar smiles with Ti Ti and her younger two sisters many times.
This is a link to Sarah Kay’s website.