Monday, Project VOICE ended its five-week U.S. tour with a performance at the University of Utah. Project VOICE, which stands for Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression, is an international movement created by co-directors Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye with the aim to educate, entertain and inspire young people. The pair of poets took turns sharing poems with alternating duet performances throughout the night.
“Don’t be afraid of writing bad poems,” Kay said. “You have to write bad poems in order to get to better poems. Too many people write one bad poem and think, ‘Oh, I guess I’m not good at this, I guess this isn’t for me’, but that’s completely absurd, and we don’t react that way to anything else. The first time you try something, or even the second or third or fourth or fifth time, you’re not expected to be brilliant at something.”
Kay and Kaye met as college freshmen when they both performed spoken-word poetry at their freshman orientation talent show. According to Project-voice.net, the idea for the project was conceived in 2004, and Kay and Kaye have since aimed to encourage youth to use poetry as a tool to engage in society. Spoken-word poetry joins writing, performance and and audience engagement to share ideas.
Since Project VOICE’s creation, Kay and Kaye have toured the world using their voices as instruments to encourage others to use theirs too. The co-directors host workshops for poets from novice to experienced.
“It takes work and it takes practice, and it’s the most exciting type of practice,” Kay said.
The first step of Project VOICE is often exposing the crowd to what spoken-word poetry is, because many people have never experienced it before.
“I think, on its most base level, giving people the permission to talk about whatever they like to talk about and really deeply think about it and think about how they want to communicate it to a community of people . . . (is) one of the most empowering things it can do,” Kaye said. “It’s certainly one of the most powerful things that I ever experienced . . . more than, you know, even the product itself. The very idea is, A, inherently political and, B, necessary to have a functional society. Not to get hyperbolic, but I think it’s a biggie.”
For Wildcats interested in spoken-word poetry, an Ogden poetry slam is held on the third Tuesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. at the Grounds for Coffee on 25th Street in Ogden.
“When I hear other people’s stories, I like to believe that they contribute to my encyclopedia of human experience,” Kay said. “The stories I hear help me expand my definition of what love is, what pain feels like, what sacrifice means, what laughter can do. I hear a story and learn from it: I agree or disagree, or build on it, or expand it, or find some kernel of truth inside of it for myself that lets me know somebody else is also trying to tackle the same confusing questions that I am.”