"If I Had a Daughter" By Sarah Kay

An Explication Written by Taylor Borgelt


"If I Had a Daughter" By Sarah Kay describes how the author would raise her daughter in the modern world. The author is exploring certain ideals and aspects that go along with raising a daughter, and challenging these concepts. The author is discussing how she would guide her daughter through the world and through their lives. It's a poem of anticipated love, redemption, salvation, guidance and reality. "And, baby," I'll tell her,don't keep your nose up in the air like that.I know that trick; I've done it a million times.You're just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house,so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him.Or else find the boy who lit the fire in the first place,to see if you can change him."


This is a narrative poem that doesn't necessarily tell a story with any chronological order, as so much that it is a list. The poem is a list of ideals the author will uphold with their own daughter, sometime in the future. It is a hopeful poem and a poem that expresses wishes and anticipation. The speaker is addressing the audience directly with a tone of finality and playful seriousness. "If I should have a daughter,instead of "Mom,"she's going to call me "Point B,"because that way she knows that no matter what happens,at least she can always find her way to me."


This poem was originally spoken word, and is written in paragraph form, similar to an essay that expresses future hopes and aspirations. The poem is a continual list that progresses through the speaker's ideas in regards to raising a daughter. As the poem progresses, the list develops to express the speakers aspirations for a wise and well rounded, worldly daughter who is loving and intelligent and trusting and ready for anything.


The language of the poem is simple and informal. There is an undertone of serious but comedic attitude that plays into the casual language. There are some musical qualities to the poem through the flow via word choice. The language expresses that that the speaker is a strong woman who aspires much from and for her daughter. The speaker references pieces from her own life and experiences that she has witnessed.

She uses personification,"She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.", and metaphors "I want her to see the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat, to look through a magnifying glass at the galaxies that exist on the pin point of a human mind.", "When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you wanna save are the ones standing on your cape. When your boots will fill with rain and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment...".

Musical Devices:

There is no real rhythm through out the poem, but there is a sense of rhythmical lyricism through world play "You will put the “wind” in win some lose some, you will put the “star” in starting over and over,". There is a sense of rhythm in the poem when it is spoken, as it is originally a spoken word poem, but when read, the poem flows smoothly but without a musical sense to it.

Sarah Kay: If I should have a daughter ...
Sarah Kay is a woman of Jewish and Japanese decent who currently lives in New York. She started out as an audience member in a bar in New York City, who, at the age of 14, sat in during spoken word sessions and began to write poetry. She performed through high school and into college where she met Phil Kaye, her best friend and poetry partner, and together they founded project voice.
Work cited:

Sarah Kay "If I Had A Daughter", TED International YouTube. March 2011. YouTube March 5 2015