Annual programs

The Caroline Rothstein oral poetry program

October 1, 2015: BreakBeat Poets: Qurayash Ali Lansana and José Olivarez

The BreakBeat Poets features 78 poets, born somewhere between 1961-1999, All-City and Coast-to-Coast, who are creating the next and now movement(s) in American letters. This is the first poetry anthology by and for the Hip-Hop generation. It is for people who love Hip-Hop, for fans of the culture, for people who've never read a poem, for people who thought poems were only something done by dead white dudes who got lost in a forest, and for poetry heads. This anthology is meant to expand the idea of who a poet is and what a poem is for.

February 19, 2015: Language Matters

There are over 6000 languages remaining in the world. We lose one every two weeks. Hundreds will be lost within the next generation. By the end of this century, half of the world’s languages will have vanished. In January 2015, Language Matters airs on PBS, a two hour documentary that asks: What do we lose when a language dies? What does it take to save a language? Language Matters was filmed around the world: on a remote island off the coast of Australia, where 400 Aboriginal people speak 10 different languages, all at risk; in Wales, where Welsh, once in danger, is today making a comeback; and in Hawaii, where Hawaiians are fighting to save their native tongue. “Most people know that we are losing species,” says Bob Holman, a poet widely known for his expertise in oral traditions. “Ask schoolchildren, and they’ll know about the panda or the orchid – they’ll have done a project on it. But ask someone if they know that languages all over the world are dying, maybe one in ten might.”

February 19, 2014: Hip Hop Speakeasy

Do you love hip hop? Are you interested in the intersection of music and spoken word? This special hip hop remix of our Speakeasy Open Mic night featured special guest Jonathan Iwry (C’14) and other students showing off their rhymes and rhythms, along with regular open mic night readings.

October 3, 2012: Caroline Rothstein

Caroline Rothstein is a New York City-based writer, performer, and eating disorder recovery advocate, who specializes in spoken word poetry, theater, creative nonfiction, journalism, and performance art. She has performed and facilitated workshops at poetry venues, theaters, colleges, universities, schools, and organizations around the United States for more than a decade. A longtime activist for eating disorder recovery, she hosts the widely viewed YouTube video-blog "Body Empowerment," sharing her own recovery story as a means to promote positive body image worldwide. Since 2000, she has served as a Resource Person for the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the NORMAL nonprofit organization. Her award-winning one-woman play "faith" about her experience with and recovery from an eating disorder debuted as part of Culture Project's Women Center Stage 2012 Festival, and received Outstanding Overall Production of a Solo Show in the 2012 Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

Caroline was a member of the 2010 Nuyorican Poets Cafe slam team, which placed second at Poetry Slam Incorporated's National Poetry Slam 2010. A former member of and director for The Excelano Project, a nationally-acclaimed spoken word poetry organization at the University of Pennsylvania, she was the 2004 and 2006 UPenn Grand Slam Champion, a five-time College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational finalist, and helped coach the UPenn slam team to CUPSI championships in 2007 and 2009. Upon graduating in 2006, Caroline was honored for her work with an event in her name at the Kelly Writers House called "The Caroline Rothstein Annual Oral Poetry Event." As a poet and journalist, Caroline has been published in various literary journals, anthologies, and publications, and self-published three books of poetry: After Leo Tolstoy 2011), This Book Wrote Itself (2009), and What I Learned in College (2006). She has a B.A. in classical studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

March 21, 2012: We All Feel Like Spoken Word

December 1, 2009: Ursula Rucker

Ursula Rucker, Philadelphia native and lyrical poet, joined us for the fourth annual Caroline Rothstein Oral Poetry Event. Rucker's performance entailed a multitude of sung and spoken poetry, with anecdotes in between to highlight the themes of the poems, many of which contained a rebellious voice against those who ignore the impoverished and the unfortunate. Rucker's confidence in her ideas came out when trying to recall a long forgotten poem, as she laughingly told the audience to "talk amongst yourselves for a second." After a minute of remembrance, Rucker proceeded to recount her poem as if she had been preparing to perform it from the very beginning. Indeed, Rucker's passion for her poetry showed especially at the end of her performance, when she emphasized with the same intensity that she reads with that what she does "ain't for the money.. it's so much bigger than that."

October 28, 2008: Tracie Morris and Band

with Marvin Sewell and Val Jeanty

Tracie MorrisCaroline Rothstein and Tracie Morris

April 21, 2008: Words in Your Face

A guided tour through twenty years of the New York City Poetry Slam

For the second annual Caroline Rothstein Oral Poetry Event, Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz and four fellow New York City Slam poets – Shappy Seasholtz, Edward Garcia, Chad Anderson, and Nicole Homer – took us through the New York City Poetry Slam movement by recounting its twenty year history and sharing some of their own poems that have seen the stage throughout the three waves of the movement. While the competitive almost-sport of the poetry slam has been deemed “the death of Art” by renowned critic Harold Bloom, Aptowicz and her fellow poets showed us that slam poetry has the power to validate the stories of young people, bring them back into the poetry scene, and most importantly, help them understand the power of words.

February 1, 2007: Taylor Mali

Taylor Mali, an acclaimed spoken word artist and teacher, was the first featured poet in the annual Caroline Rothstein Oral Poetry Program. Mali started by reading poems that ranged from intriguing yet funny observations about the loss of Pluto as a planet to somber inner struggles reflecting on his first wife’s depression and suicide. Prompted by Rothstein’s introductory statement that “it is essential to watch a poet spit a piece about education and language, because without education and language there is no world to change,” Mali spoke directly about the importance of teachers and education by way of a personal project—a goal to convert 1000 people into teachers through his “poetry, and perseverance, and passion for teaching.”