Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, Live in Wellington


Photo of Sarah Kay, by Darlene Toclo

As an event organised by Wellington’s Poetry in Motion, the evening began with some of our very own New Zealand poets. A series of slam favourites warmed up the stage before our very own Ali Jacs, the founder of Poetry in Motion herself, took the stage. Paired with the beautiful venue—the wonderful arches and stained glass windows of Old St Paul’s—the whole evening was already beginning to feel magical.

Sarah Kay (right) and Phil Kaye were then brought up onto stage to the sound of applause. For Sarah, it’s her first time in New Zealand and her bright voice exclaims how “everyone in New Zealand is so chill” compared to her hometown of New York. For Phil, this is his second visit to New Zealand after four years. He explained how he met Ali Jacs; it becomes evident that this mutual love for poetry is what connects people together and allows poets like Sarah and Phil to travel all the way to Wellington. The two then work as a pair for the rest of the show, delivering duet pieces in between their own solo poems, and presenting spoken word that is both heartbreaking and humorous.

One of my favourite poems they performed together was An Origin Story, a piece that explains the strange coincidences and circumstances that brought Sarah and Phil together. The two have no blood relation despite the similarity of their last names and other parallels that they unfold throughout the poem. The synchronisation of their delivery made the performance a delight to watch live, even after hearing it so many times online.

Sarah was just as bright and brilliant as she is in these videos. After switching places with Phil, she implores the audience, “make some noise if you’ve ever been in love!” Laughing with the uproar, she explains that it’s her way of gauging the make-up of the audience, telling us how university students yell like “love is their favourite sports team”. One of the poems she launches into next is a new piece from her recently released book The Type, bringing some new material into the mix.

Phil’s delivery of his poem Repetition was especially heart wrenching, portraying a child stuck with a stutter. This is an irony recognised by Phil; he describes himself as an “injured handyman” who works with words. The pauses he takes in between stanzas are perfect, giving the audience just enough time to reflect on what has just been spoken before building up the story and moving onto another image, another piece of dialogue.

Their last duet poem is When Love Arrives. It is a beautiful piece where, in succession, the two offer up wonderful musings on love, describing both its perfection and imperfection. Love is something bittersweet but ultimately worth it; it is a beautiful end to an evening of local poets and two very special poets from afar, who have come all the way to New Zealand to share their words.

Reviewed by Emma Shi

For more spoken word in Wellington, Poetry In Motion holds events at 7:30pm on the first Wednesday of every month at Meow on Edward Street.

Sarah Kay’s website
Phil Kay’s website

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