In Lansing, there is a place where authors, poets and musicians alike are welcome to perform during the second week of each month.
The Poetry Room was founded in 2017 by Masaki Takahashi and Grace Carras when the two joined forces with the Robin Theater “to create a series of open mic events that would excite the masses and bless the ears of patrons with tasty poetry.”
The theme of the session on Feb. 12 was “Good Fortune.” Most of the poets and musicians chose to stick to the theme. Others drifted and wrote pieces dedicated to the romance of Valentine’s Day.
Some poets focused on social issues while others read more trivial poems. Michigan State student Camille Thomas described how much she’d love to hear her crush talk about their day.
Thomas is a member of the MSU SLAM Poetry Team. SLAM teams bring a competitive edge to performance poetry.
Many poets at the Poetry Room choose to write about social issues, including education, drugs, crime, racism, population control, government, neglect, abuse, war, sexism, violence, censorship, welfare, eating disorders, same-sex relationships and disease.
Abbie Crick performed a poem about Jason Pero, a 14-year-old Native American boy shot and killed by a Wisconsin police officer in 2017.
“I think that the deputy just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to trade his Midwest for the Wild West,” Crick screamed. “Maybe it’s because all of that red gets lost in the white noise about blue lives. Is no one concerned that soon Old Glory is only going to have two colors left because some colors don’t run?
They never get a chance. They’re staring down the barrel of martial law.”
Bri Johnson used the lyrics of Tupac Shakur to describe racism against African-Americans and social issues within the black community.
“Why? Why we take from our women, why we rape our women. Do we hate our women? Black man, it is OK to cry. Let it out. Black man, have no fear in this life, you will make it no doubt.”
A recurring topic during the two hours of performances were LGBTQIA+ issues and rights. Several queer poets spoke of the issues they see within themselves or problems they have had in relationships.
“The last girl I liked told me to my face that she did not like me back and I literally felt my heart break,” Patience Makenzie said during her poem “Can You Handle All of This?” “Sometimes I enter a different realm where Trump does not exist and misogyny is illegal.”
The Poetry Room is a place where both returning and new performers are encouraged and loved by a welcoming audience. The audience never fails to cheer, snap, or shout in excitement for the musicians and poets after their performances. Art is celebrated and relished here. Open mics, which allow people to have their voices heard, are dwindling, but places like The Poetry Room keeps this style of craft flourishing.
For more information about The Poetry Room and its upcoming open mics, check out its Facebook page.