The University of Indianapolis welcomed New York poet Caroline Rothstein to campus for an evening of poetry, conversation, tears and laughs on Jan. 29. The Campus Program Board organized the event.
Rothstein read several of her poems throughout the night, taking a break between each one to talk a little bit about herself and her personal philosophies on life or to offer introductions or explanations for some of her poems.
Rothstein said that her poem “You Could be Next” addresses racism that she has both witnessed and experienced.
“I wrote this poem in 2008, and it’s 2014 and I didn’t have to change a single word,” Rothstein said. “My hope is that we can stop being mean to one another.”
One of Rothstein’s key focuses was interaction with the audience. During her performance she made sure the audience was comfortable.
Sophomore social work major Felicia Ridle said that she was inspired by Rothstein’s performance. Ridle enjoyed Rothstein’s poetry reading for several other reasons as well.
“I really did enjoy the performance because it was honest and I could relate to a lot of things she was saying,” Ridle said. “I write, and I love to listen to other spoken-word artists tell their stories and perform.”
Although Rothstein always kept the mood upbeat and light, some of the subject material was very dark and obviously hit some members of the audience very hard. Rothstein was always mindful of this, letting the crowd know if the next poem would be particularly emotional for some.
She soothed the audience after bringing up these painful topics. After a poem about the deaths and suicides of people close to her, Rothstein implored the audience to be freely compassionate and loving.
“I know that one was really hard to hear for some of you. So before we go any further, let’s just stop for a minute and spread some love,” Rothstein said. “Grab the hand of the person next to you. Give a hug. Awkwardly rub shoulders or something.”
One of the topics Rothstein touched on most was positive body image. She said this issue is personal to her, because she has recovered from a long battle with an eating disorder. Several of her poems offered insight into her own experiences with eating disorders, but Rothstein has done more than share her experiences.
She has been a resource person for the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders since 2000 and has created her own Youtube video series called “Body Empowerment.” The series seeks to open a dialogue on eating disorders, inform those who are not knowledgeable about them and offer help for those who are aware of them.
She said she believes that social media can be tools for those suffering from an eating disorder, but that one must be wary.
“You have to be careful with social media sites like Tumblr and Youtube because there is a lot of destructive stuff on there. There are a lot of positive things as well, though,” Rothstein said. “The positive stuff can be helpful, but it really needs to be rooted in some other kind of therapy. Whether it’s talk therapy, group therapy, art therapy—it doesn’t matter which one, just as long as the social media stuff is supplementing real therapy.”