WeSLAM founder Mike Rosen ’11 was featured in the Saturday, Sept. 24 preliminary poetry slam at the Bayit, where 10 students competed for three spots to advance to the next preliminary round in order to compete in the upcoming grand slam in November.
“[WeSLAM] believes in poetry’s power to heal, change, and transform the world into a more compassionate and honest place,” the event’s Facebook page reads.
This season’s poetry theme is “Born to Heal.”
Rosen introduced the event, explaining the rules of the slam. Each poet was to read one original poem for three minutes, and five judges chosen from the audience would then score the poem from 0.00 to 10.00.
Students then read their pieces aloud. The poem topics ranged from falling in love to finding oneself. Ultimately, the three poets who scored the highest amount of points, and will therefore proceed to the next round, were Joy Feinberg ’19, Ahmed Badr ’20, and Ariel Edelman ’20.
Naomi Glascock ’20 was in the audience, supporting a close friend of hers whom she discovered was performing in the event.
“I originally wanted to go to the slam because listening to poetry being performed is just a really powerful and emotionally recharging experience,” she wrote in an email to The Argus.
She explained that her favorite aspect of the slam was the atmosphere in the room.
“When that many people are willing to share such intimate details about their lives, you always hope that the crowd will all support them, and it seemed like everyone had really come out to make a great, collaborative space that night,” she wrote.
The latter portion of the slam consisted of Rosen reading several of his own works aloud. Among other things, he spoke of his relationships, his father’s death, and the need to speak up and be true to oneself.
“You are angels,” he told the audience. “It’s not a theory; it’s a statement. Stop folding your wings so you can fit through doors.”
Glascock was not familiar with Rosen’s work before attending the poetry slam, but gained interest after hearing him speak.
“The messages he gave about being true to yourself and acknowledging our privileges really hit home for me,” she wrote. “And all of the personal stories he shared about his time at Wes made him a great emcee.”
Rosen, who has coached the WeSLAM team for the last two years, described his joy at seeing the team still performing after he founded it six years ago in the fall of 2010.
“Wesleyan is always really special and unique, for better or for worse, but it holds a very special place in my heart and to see that this program is still around [means] a lot,” he said.
Rosen started WeSLAM because he wanted a safe space for community members to speak about their experiences with others. Rosen described hearing the poets read their works on Saturday night as moving.
“[Naming winners tonight] is not why we’re here,” he said. “We are here to evolve. This is how we move forward as a community.”
Rosen often writes poetry and then edits it until it sound like something other people would want to hear.
“A couple of the pieces you heard tonight are pretty much unedited,” Rosen said. “They’re just raw.”
Rosen is known for his viral poem “When God Happens,” and said that it was partly inspired by “Falling Man” by Don Delillo.
“The 10-year anniversary [of 9/11] had just passed and there was all this symbolism coming out in the media…and I wanted to add a very personal voice to that narrative,” Rosen said. “I’ve never seen it as a national symbol in that I see it as something that happened in my hometown.”
The poem has been criticized as being unpatriotic, but Rosen explains that that is not what the poem is about.
“It’s about fear and the loss of life that is experienced by people on all sides,” Rosen said. “It’s a poem…against using fear as a tool of policy.”
Rosen is still unsure whether or not he will be coaching the WeSLAM team again this year. He currently resides in New York, where he continues to write poetry, and hopes to travel to India to teach more workshops.