Book Review: No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay

Author: Sarah Kay

Illustrator: Sophia Janowitz

Publisher: Write Bloody Publishing

Year: 2014

It is almost impossible for me to say exactly when I started liking Sarah Kay. I stumbled upon her Spoken Word poetry on Youtube once and it was instant infatuation. I spent months trying to get my hands on her book of poetry No Matter the Wreckage but it was not until my birthday that I could finally get the Kindle version. I decided to read one poem a day before bed for as long as it took to finish the book. It proved to be harder than I thought because on some nights, I just could not stop after one, two, or even three poems.

No Matter the Wreckage is a collection of Kay’s work from her first decade as a poet. Having already seen every single one of her videos on Youtube, I was looking forward to actually reading her work on paper as well as discover her other pieces. Considering I was primarily familiar with her work being read by her, I found myself hearing her voice while reading the poems I already knew. The unfamiliar ones, however, were easier for me to connect to because I did not automatically associate them with her.

Sarah Kay has this almost magical ability of weaving portraits with words like no other. Not only does it make for an enthralling read, but it also keeps you invested whether you want to or not. The thing with No Matter the Wreckage is that most of the poems have an autobiographical aspect to them. In Kay’s own words: “I write poems to figure things out.” However, that does not stop her poems from sucking you into a world where you travel effortlessly from Montauk to India and from Cape Town to New York. From deeply personal pieces, to others that are about the most mundane daily experiences, she manages to make you feel like it is all about you, not her. It is in this way that a poem about a nine-year-old collecting jellyfish at the beach ends with something like this:

Somewhere in between then and now I learned that every move you make echoes outwards from your body like ripples on the ocean from skipping stone. It is what has taught me that Karma is as tangible as the taste of seawater.

From Jellyfish

It is also in this same way that we get a piece that is a love letter from a toothbrush to a bicycle tire.

With the perfect mixture of raw emotions and stunning imagery, Sarah Kay delivers some pieces that have left me in awe. Poems such as Something We Don’t Talk About, Part II and Postcards showcased vulnerability in such an unapologetic way. I believe it is for this very reason that I loved Kay’s world in the first place.

You can only fit so many words in a postcard.

Only so many in a phone call.

Only so many into space, before you forget

that words are sometimes used for things

other than filling emptiness.

It is hard to build a body out of words.

I have tried. We have both tried.

From Postcards

No Matter the Wreckage is a journey. It is a journey of self discovery that covers everything from love and hurt, to learning and wonder. With her unique ability to give life to everything and anything, Kay created a world that almost anyone could fit in. If I have learned anything from Kay, it is that anything can written about. From your favourite elementary school teacher to being on a plane during turbulence, not forgetting heartache and everything that comes along with it. All experiences are valid.

Oh, Brother. No matter your wreckage.

There will be someone to find you beautiful,

despite the cruddy metal. Your ruin is not to be hidden

behind paint and canvas. Let them see the cracks.

Someone will come to sing into these empty spaces.

Their voices will echo off your insides like a second-grader

and her little brother-four years younger, two steps ahead.

Singing ’til metal vibrates. ‘Til the ghost ship rings.

From Ghost Ship

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