An Interview with Phil Kaye, Sage Alumnus and Spoken Word Poet


Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye performing a collaborative spoken word poem.

Jan. 15 in the Black Box Theater, Sarah Kay and Sage Hill alumnus Phil Kaye ‘06, poured their hearts out into languid poetry, both filling the stage with their harmonious words and leaving the audience in awe.

This was not the first time the two have performed spoken word poetry together here at Phil’s alma mater. Once upon a time, Phil performed his very first spoken word poem during Town Meeting in Wilkins Town Square.

“I was so nervous about performing, but Town Meeting was a place where I knew that even though no one there had even heard of spoken word poetry, they would all still encourage me. There’s really something special about having a venue specifically made to allow students to put whatever they want to out into a safe environment. Not many schools have that,” Phil said.

That was nearly ten years ago. Now Phil travels the world performing spoken word poetry, splitting the stage with self described platonic soul mate, Sarah Kay. Still, Phil always likes to make the time to return to Sage every so often.

“Sage did a lot for me,” he said. “The teachers, the community. I wouldn’t have found spoken word if Sage hadn’t sent me to the Student Diversity Leadership conference.”

Phil cites English teacher Mr. Parker and former Theater teacher Chris Marshall as two teachers who inspired him most.

“Some of the best advice I ever received was from Mr. Parker. When you write, or do anything creatively for that matter, imagine your biggest fan is on your shoulder, constantly encouraging you. For me, it’s my mom. That way, you can never back down from a big idea. Only after a first draft of that idea should you imagine a helpful critic on your shoulder instead.”

Tools like this have carried with Phil throughout his life, and he still finds himself using them when writing spoken word. However, he also serves to remind that his pursuit of this passion was never an epiphanic solution to all his problems, nor is the pursuit of any other passion.

“I think the mistake people make when trying to find their passion is thinking that there is some ‘A-ha’ moment,” Phil said. “You find things you like and you stick with them. I never had a moment where I just knew I had to do spoken word for the rest of my life, but it became something I was passionate about.”

Yet it is hard not to have an “A-ha” moment of realization that he and Sarah should be doing this for the rest of their lives, when seeing them on stage impossibly turning feelings into words. There is a way in which they speak that forces you to feel their stories within yourself. And that is something of imperceptible wonder.

See a video of Kay and Kaye performing a poem together here.