NAME: Masaki Takahashi
BUSINESS: Making Poetry Popular
POSITION: Host of “The Poetry Room” at The Robin Theatre
How does one go from poet to poetry host extraordinaire?
Dylan Rogers who owns The Robin Theatre has asked me to host a poetry open mic. Dylan and I have been friends for a while and I have always admired his work. He has seen my work as well. It just meshed well and timing was great. I have a good team around me with Kevin Nguyen who plays his music and take photos, Anthony Tesija who does the dad jokes and a co-host in Grace Carras. A good group of friends will always carry you to the next level and support you. You need that. #SquadGoals
I was just lucky enough to be a conduit for Dylan’s amazing vision for an open mic for this city. He really deserves a lot of the credit for the success of The Poetry Room.
How does one mix a technical background with poetry?
My technical job keeps a roof over my head, so it will always keep priority, but poetry helps me make so many friends. A lot of work friends have come support as well. They enjoy the raw emotions because we deal with logic all day. I think the human interactions and the polar opposite worlds make each other so much more enjoyable.
Have you ever heard a poem that made you emotional? Have you ever written that same poem?
At the end of The Roots album "Things Fall Apart," Ursula Rucker has a poem called The Return to Innocence Lost. It is just too real for me. I find a lot of parallels to my life that deals with domestic violence.
There was also this one time, I heard this local poet during an event at the Lansing Poetry Club. This one lady read a poem about her divorce. I was several years removed from mine, but I did one of those, “oh I am stretching because I am trying to hide my tears”. Unfortunately, I don’t remember her name, but I remember talking to her about it. Her poem was just so vivid and amazing.
Those stories touch me and I have dabbled in such topics but I don’t think anyone could ever write those same poems because we all live different lives and tell different stories.
What would you say to encourage someone who has stage fright?
Just do it. It gets easier, but you never want to lose the feeling of stage fright. I still have it and I hope it never leaves. It’s an adrenaline rush for me. Having stage fright makes it feel like a roller coaster ride. You’re scared beforehand but afterwards you’re just so happy you did it and it’s totally normal to feel like you have to constantly pee the entire time. This is normal.
If you had $250,000 and you could spend it on your creative side, what would you do with it?
With a quarter million, I would hope to create a business out of it to generate jobs and opportunities for people. We have a lot of talent in this city, but you just have to find it. I would love to give people more exposure. I really have no idea what I would do but I know I want to market Lansing as a destination spot for creativity for all to see. We just need our opportunity and support.
What have you been involved with that has created opportunity for young writers?
This last year, I was able to reach a goal of workshopping with students. Cat Weaver from Everett High School had invited Grace Carras, Abbie Crick and I to run a work shop. It was great, and the students were amazing. It was rewarding, and I was impressed by the students and how much the teachers there really do care.
We also did a work shop for the College of Education at Michigan State University in Alecia Beymer’s class. It was amazing to see the impact writing poetry and sharing had on the students. At the end of the year, they had a performance to share and after the event the students were just super emotional and sad to leave her class. You know, you did something right when students don’t want the class to be over. That was amazing, and I was so glad to be a small part of it.
I really admire the teachers who make such an impact. My fourth-grade teacher assistant got me into poetry too. So, she probably will never know the impact she made on my life and I now get to pass it on. The impact the teachers make on the students are just amazing and I feel really blessed to be invited and to share my piece of the story.
What has been surprising as far as developments in your world that you did not think would have happened?
I never thought The Poetry Room would have turned into something so big and mean so much to people. I get messages about how much they appreciate the experience. It’s humbling and a huge blessing to know that you have impacted lives so positively. I hope for The Poetry Room to be bigger and work on more projects in the next couple years (hopefully).
What advice would you give to single fathers who have to maintain a work and life balance?
Enjoy every moment, be patient & present. We are all hard on ourselves, but patience will always win the race. Being present, will help you enjoy the moment and we are lucky to have each and every moment with our child.
Finally, if you could write a poem to someone that has passed away, who would that be and what would it be about.
Luckily, I never had anyone close to me pass away. So, I would like to use my creative license and say I would like to write about life regrets and guilt passing away.
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PHOTO by Parios Kirby Photography