Mike Rosen leads slam poetry reading in the Rat

By Mackenzie Cutruzzula
Arts & Entertainment Assistant

With every table filled, three undergraduate students warmed up for headliner Mike Rosen at the Rathskeller for a spoken word poetry reading presented by CUBRat and INK on Friday, Nov. 14.

Junior English major Rachel Friedman kicked off the night with a set of slam poetry that dealt with issues close to heart, including pancreatic cancer awareness and questions of faith. Following Friedman was sophomore English major Alena Woods, whose set of poems had lingering themes of summertime and sweet nostalgia. The last opener was Andrew Edelblum, a junior psychology major. His poetry was filled with high energy and humor, reading about topics like his “awkward existence” and being the typecast “funny, nice and smart” guy.

Edelblum shares his original work. (Samantha Selikoff / Staff Photographer)
Edelblum shares his original work. (Samantha Selikoff / Staff Photographer)

Headliner Mike Rosen, an award-winning, N.Y.C.-based poet, took the stage with a vibrant spirit that juxtaposed his often-somber themed poetry. 

“You could have been anywhere in the world tonight, but you chose to come listen to poetry,” Rosen said, exciting the crowd. “And that’s the greatest thing in the world.”

Rosen, a New York native, pulls inspiration for his fast-talk slam poetry from the hip-hop genre. Like hip-hop, Rosen uses his poetry to highlight issues facing youth in both inner cities and around the world. He wants his poetry to spark a dialogue that will lead to change. He feels his art is a way to give a voice to the voiceless.

“You can’t stop the war, but you can inspire and make better decisions,” Rosen said in one poem.

Rosen admitted that he doesn’t write a lot of celebration poems. Poetry is more therapeutic to him, and he uses it to work out the negative in his life. Rosen took on a variety of deep topics including 9/11, domestic violence and eating disorders. The most notable theme throughout his set was his connection to New York City, particularly the unity New Yorkers displayed during the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. He wrote an entire poem about how the “gray, gridlocked, concrete jungle” was the only place for him.

One moment that stood out in his life and his poetry was Sept. 11, 2011. He dedicated an entire poem to talking about what he saw that day and how he views the war it sparked today. He feels that the war was started by those so far removed from the effects of 9/11 that they couldn’t even understand it. He believes it wasn’t their war to start.

“Under that rubble was not your country, it was our city,” Rosen said. “Your war doesn’t bring back the bodies (we search for).”

Rosen recites heartfelt verses. (Samantha Selikoff / Staff Photographer)
Rosen recites heartfelt verses. (Samantha Selikoff / Staff Photographer)

Surprisingly, Rosen left the city for four important years to study and write poetry at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. A dramatic contrast to the grayscale city of New York, he felt at home in the small town atmosphere that surrounded him while away at school.

“Wesleyan had no fear of being weird,” Rosen said. “That’s what was so great about it.”

Although he doesn’t have any plans to move out of the city that inspired lines such as “birthing so many lovers, but not so much love,” he has a lot of friends living in Minneapolis and might want to check out the Bay Area someday. Rosen, however, is focused on living in the moment and what stories are important to him.

Rosen is very conscious of storytelling and the perspectives therein. He strives to only give truthful accounts in his poems about his life, but emphasized that everyone’s personal narrative is important. Rosen wanted the students in the room to leave with a different perspective than the one they came in with, and his poems definitely gave the audience reasons to reflect.