This is my ramble-y recap of attending and volunteering for Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye Live in London, on 17th July, 2019.
You ever looked at a moment whilst in that moment and thought to yourself: How will memory contain this? How will memory alone collect it? Oh, how can it keep the littlest details safe and special? Those specific questions I heard echoed back at me (from wherever looming questions, as such, stem from) as I was sat, neck slightly tilted upwards, watching and listening to Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye reading their poems on a London stage, one humid Wednesday evening.
Growing up as a third-culture kid in Saudi Arabia, school was a mixed cuisine buffet. My Palestinian/Jordanian best friend and I, mimicked our Indian teachers’ funny ways of saying some words (ironically enough) using our own odd, hybrid palette of accents and words. A palette we made, borrowing from each other amidst growing up in this home that was as foreign to us as was also ours.
One you only ever can build together.
And yet, even in such a short-lasting, sense of permanence, the love for Sarah and Phil was a given. Videos on Youtube of both of them performing their spoken-word wonders was watched and adored by so many of my school friends, even ones for whom poetry was a passable thing, it became a timeless, tangible language of admiration we continue to speak even after all this time, having collected our palettes into separate suitcases to homes in different countries.
Thus, for July to come around and for me to be the first of my school to be stood in front of a red door was (and now I hope you begin to understand..) profound.
For out walked, Phil, long-haired, tall and all.
I think I tried to crack a joke or something about having to now stare at him while climbing these steep stairs because obviously I was unprepared for this moment. I’m not sure how much of said joke was imparted, to the confines outside my own brain. Either way, I remembered to breathe..which helped with self-survival, if we’re being totally frank.
side-note: He does this thing where he says ‘Hi, I’m Phil’ and, I don’t know about the others, but my gut instinct, instead of saying the sensible ‘Hi, I’m Riz’, is to reply with a ‘Duh! 👏 You’re 👏 Phil 👏 Kaye’.
If I had begun to recover from this sudden Phil appearance, my return to a general, calmer self was cut short, as Sarah casually waved from near the end steps of this gigantic theatre room where I and the other volunteers were ushered into, and I, kid you not, I could not wipe this smile (definitely a size much larger than the room) from my face. Hell, even the Joker would be taking lessons from ME with my smile that wide. I remember thinking,
“who let me be this happy?”
Perhaps, it’s because I’ve never met anyone famous. Once, during a rather tiring stopover before our flight to Pakistan, my father shook hands with our country’s cricketing Legend (and now, Prime Minister..), Imran Khan. I woke up from Airport-caused slumber, moments after he had walked away. And while I wasn’t particularly ever a fan of his, it would be incorrect of me to say I wasn’t disappointed at this missed crossing. So, meeting Phil and Sarah was much like running before walking.
This was a crossing I had expected to be a quick hello. This, too, would’ve been more than enough for me. But when the moment came, I did not envision it to feel like I hadn’t just met these two mega poetry celebrities.
See, sheepishly, I introduced myself to Sarah. “I’m Riz”, I wanted to make sure I didn’t mumble as I often do in situations when my heart beats out of my chest. She recognizes me from Twitter, think she even calls me(!) her(!!!) Twitter friend. And as she talks us through our volunteering roles, she calls me Riz. Sure, I’ve only met two famous people in my life by now but that’s besides the point. Sarah, for the rest of the evening, remembers my name.
She didn’t have to but she does, anyway.
side-note: She does this thing where, when people tell her their names for a signature on their books, Sarah will try and guess the correct name spellings, out loud. Every time she it right (and she got it right, many times..), the joy on her face is visible and infectious from miles away.
Maybe it’s humility, after all, that keeps you grounded.
When the show begins with with a sold-out 700(?) audience under this one roof, sweating, yes, but excited, the applause that erupts as our poets now walk out on stage, lasts a long time. When they take this crowd (and at this point, the room doesn’t feel big at all), from poem to poem, sharing laughter, hurt, awe, and feelings, in a way I have no words for, I constantly strive for just the simple thing:
To take it in. To look so intently, so earnestly, I would not have to rely on memory alone. To, somehow, hold this exact time, as long and as dearly, it could endure anything life would choose from its treasure chest of woes for me. To, were I to look back, be convinced that I cherished (and tended to) my heart made happy by these poets’ hearts and their art.
Always in All Ways.
"It is too easy to spend all your time worried about the hurt that could be on its way. You’ll miss the moon rising over the orchard in the meantime. Don’t miss it, friend. How lucky you are that for even just tonight, you have twice as many stars in your sky." — S. Kay
And, in case, I failed this simple task, I travelled back (in probably a bit of a delirious state), from London to Nottingham, on a cheap coach booked for past-midnight on the same day, accepting:
I would wake from this one, any moment.