Some days, your favorite female character isn’t a character at all. Some days, she isn’t fictional, but a real person, performing real good in the world and imbuing our lives with the magic of the everyday.
I saw Sarah Kay perform in New York City this past weekend. She is a professional slam poet, educator and co-founder of the program Project V.O.I.C.E., which brings poetry workshops to students all around the world. As a feminist poet, she is most famous for her 2011 TED Talk “If I Should Have a Daughter.”
On first glance, she doesn’t write speculative pieces. She writes poems and weaves stories about gender, her life, her relationships and growing up in NYC. But it is her language which is speculative, fantastical and fantastic. Her work reveals a woman who writes about gender, relationships, and growing up in NYC, but all the while these poems are about seeing the magic in the world and the entrancing quality of the right words. She believes in the impossible and that is speculative.
At the performance this past weekend, she performed one poem about her youth and ignorance and desire to trust. When visiting cousins in CA, she mistook a raccoon for a cat and fed it off her plate. To be more specific, she mistook a raccoon for a MAGIC CAT because how else could a cat stand on two legs? For a few minutes of her life, she believed in magic cats and if she could summon magic cats, then she must be a sorcerer! She could summon fairies and dragons and what other magic was she now capable of?!
In the audience, I couldn’t stop smiling and believing in Sarah Kay’s belief and remembering how, as a child, I believed I was becoming a magic cat and that one day I would wake up with fur around my ears, and whiskers sticking from my cheeks. But as you grow older and you are not yet a magic cat or a sorcerer, some days it’s difficult as a writer to hold onto that magic. No matter how much you read and no matter how much time you spend with your characters in fantastical lands and situations, it can be difficult.
So, some days, we have to be reminded to believe in the impossible so we can write the impossible. We have to be reminded that sometimes, our favorite female characters aren’t characters but real people who inspire us to see the magic and mystery all around.