October 23, 2019
The Poetry Room has served as Lansing’s spoken word hub and creative watering hole for years. Founder Masaki Takahashi started his creative performance endeavors with rapping then slowly moved into poetry. This newfound art lead him to join Michigan State University’s slam poetry team. He stopped writing poetry after college for a bit and fell in love with it all over again when he was asked to perform at a local theatre. Afterward, Dylan Lodge, owner of the Robin Theater, asked him to jump-start an open mic night. The process of making this idea come to life flowed on from there.
“We had a whole summer to talk about it,” Takahashi said, “and in my past experiences, I’ve created loose themes for the poetry nights. I talked to a lot of my network, and the Renegade Theater asked me to start an open mic with them. That really created the foundation for what we have now.”
When speaking on the community within the Poetry Room, Takahashi spoke as highly of those who share in the occasion as one would speak of those who have truly changed their life.
“There’s a community, and you really trust the audience to listen,” Takahashi said. “We really start knowing one another, it’s a very safe space as well. [The event has] made me a better person. There’s a lot of things that I was never exposed to, [like] specific gender issues. That was never something that I was exposed to growing up. Being able to have those conversations openly really makes me learn about other peoples’ struggles.”
On how to get up on stage and perform their most personal work to an audience, Takahashi has some simple yet profound words of wisdom, “That nervous feeling is actually a great feeling. Some of us get over it. Some of us never do. The more you do it, the more comfortable you get. Anytime you’re vulnerable, it’s kind of scary, and it’s like a roller coaster ride. Then the moment you get on, you’re like ‘I’m glad I did that, and I want to do it again.’”
The Poetry Room also focuses on communities outside of its own in order to create unity and inspire young writers. “I go to high schools [and] colleges and try to encourage people to write. I believe that all people need a little bit of encouragement. We concentrate on each person and try to encourage them to be the best that they can be” Takahashi said. He also reaches out to students in Grand Rapids and Detroit and mentors them in writing workshops.
Upcoming events include a November workshop sponsored by Sycamore Creek Church and an open mic in December at Henry’s Place. A portion of the proceeds earned at these events will be donated to a charitable cause. As a donation-based organization itself, it is undoubtedly commendable that the Poetry Room focuses its charity on causes outside of its own. If you’d like to learn even more about the Poetry Room, check out its Facebook page or take a seat at an upcoming open mic to see it for yourself.
Molly Harmon is a senior Professional Writing student from California hoping to end up in a big city. She loves finding hidden fashion gems, listening to pop culture-esque podcasts, and snapping her fingers at poetry open mic nights. If any of that peaks your interest, you can follow her on Instagram @mollyharmon.