Review: No Matter The Wreckage, by Sarah Kay

Book: No Matter the Wreckage
Author: Sarah Kay
Pages: 143
Genre: Poetry, Nonfiction
Published: 2014, Write Bloody Publishing
Rating: ★★★★

“Following the success of her breakout poem, “B,” Sarah Kay, in collaboration with illustrator Sophia Janowitz, releases her debut collection of poetry featuring work from the first decade of her career.

No Matter the Wreckage presents readers with new and beloved poetry that showcases Kay’s talent for celebrating family, love, travel, and unlikely romance between inanimate objects (“The Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire”). Both fresh and wise, Kay’s poetry allows readers to join her on the journey of discovering herself and the world around her. It is an honest and powerful collection.”

I can’t remember the last time I spent an afternoon lying in bed, reading a book from start to finish. Two teas, one warm blanket, and three hours later, and I’ve achieved something. Ah, contentment.

There’s just something strangely satisfying about it; like sitting in a bath until the water turns cold and your fingers are wrinkled, or finishing a journal and flipping back through the pages covered in your handwriting. A wholeness, perhaps. Maybe it’s cheating a little that I’m talking about a book of poetry, and it was consequently much shorter than your average book, but I don’t care. Still happy.

“So no matter that I have inhibitions to fill all my pockets,
I keep trying, hoping that one day I’ll write the poem that I will be
proud to let sit in a museum exhibit as the only proof I existed.”

Sarah Kay is a spoken word poet, and one that I greatly admire. I found videos of her reciting poetry on Youtube years ago, and I devoured them, one after another, endlessly inspired by her observations to be making my own. Whenever I’m having a particularly bad spout of writer’s block, it’s these videos that I turn to.

So it’s kind of weird to read these poems instead of hearing them. Her voice has the perfect timing, the necessary emphasis, the volume needed to make you shiver. So reading them is a lesser experience, I’ll admit.

They’re still great poems though. She’s so obviously a storyteller, and it is seriously the kind of poetry that makes you feel things. It makes you consider parts of your own life in new ways. I think a lot of people can get away with being writers without necessarily having to be storytellers. That is so not the case with Sarah Kay.

I particularly like the longer poems. They’re the ones with more obvious narratives, and I’m a sucker for a strong narrative. In “Forest Fires” she relates her personal experience of having been in Santa Cruz just days before it burst out with wildfires, and how that near-miss affected her and the ensuing chaos of her grandmother’s illness.

“My father watches from the bedside chair,
his mother and daughter strung together
with tightrope hands, fingers that look
like his own. And somewhere in California
a place I once stood is burning.”

Another, “Extended Development” tells a heart-wrenching story about her family, and their experience of 9/11. One of my favourite shorter ones was “The Shirt”: “Does it fit? / I said, Yes. / Then just wear it, silly”. Ugh. So beautiful.

One of the things that astounds me is how personal her writing can get, but at the same time, she spins her stories in such a way that they feel like my stories. Like your stories. Like everyone’s stories. Maybe that’s the point.

I would definitely recommend this one. I think the only reason it seems to fall a bit short for me is that when I read it, it’s in my voice, and my voice has no idea of the emotionality behind the poems. Sarah Kay’s voice does. I’m not sure how I feel about spoken word poets writing books rather than performing; anyone else have any ideas on this? (I’m genuinely curious)

So anyway, I’m also linking some of her videos below as well, hopefully they help get my point across. Her writing is the same, but the delivery makes it so different all at once.


Ghost Ship

Forest Fires


What do you think? Do you have a preference over spoken/written word? Should there even be a distinction? Let me know!

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I'm Emma Kath. Welcome to my blog! This is where I post my original book reviews, litstyle (lifestyle for the lit-nerd), and other bookish things. A little about me: I'm Canadian, and currently a student majoring in English lit and cultural studies. I'm an introvert (INFJ, if you believe in that sort of thing), sarcastic to the bone, I love art and history, and hope to one day travel around a bit. Until then, I'll be reading, writing, and trying to spread a little kindness around the internet. If you have any questions or inquiries, feel free to contact me!

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