A Young Writer Arrives in New York City
Or, How I chased Sarah Kay Dreams to the Bowery
By J. Cartwright Metje
The Fall of 2017 marked the first time I lived in two cities. New York has always been the idea of greatness that I dreamed of making mine. Poetry is the streets and signposts that really make my place here like home. Living in both, nothing is too far that I can’t reach out and grab hold.
I remember in the seventh grade, back where I grew up in Blue Springs, Missouri, when I first watched a Sarah Kay poem. Her words were the first time I felt awake and conscious in this city of poetry. I quickly became obsessed. I studied over any video of her performances I could find, and eventually stumbled upon one that, while filmed with a camera of quality not quite on par with the professional equipment I was used to seeing her through, quickly became my favorite. In it, Sarah is young, standing on a small stage with only calm lighting to highlight her body. She is performing “The Type” at the Bowery Poetry Club in lower Manhattan. I said to my 13-year-old self,
“I want to go there and perform a poem like that.”
Six years later, I go to the Bowery Poetry Club every Sunday for their open mic. While I’m there, all I can think about is how I step where she has. This was her beginning. Maybe it can be mine too.
One week, early October, Sarah had a show in a nearby theater. I bought tickets and went. After the performance, I was able to meet her, get a signed copy of “The Type,” and thank her for the influence she has had on me. She was gracious, and as beautiful as I thought she would be. Only in New York would I be able to see my idol, look into her eyes, and wonder if they were glistening because she was tired, my words touched her, or somewhere in between.
Then, the Sunday after, I made my regular stop through Bowery. Imagine my surprise when she came through the door, and sat next to me.
She told me the place doesn’t look anything like the treehouse she remembered climbing through. A part of me is disappointed that I got a second-hand dreamland. But that’s okay.
I will make this my home, anyway.
Follow J. on Twitter and Instagram @slayandgay! Keep a look-out for his upcoming first book of poetry!
(And, editor’s note: we did a major remodel a few years ago so the space is very different than before — you’ll love it. Come watch J. on our stage on Sunday evenings at PoetNY.)