SLAM POET PATRICK ROCHE ’14 LOVES BEYONCE, FIGHTS EVIL WITH COCONUT WATER-BASED JUSTICE, AND HAS TWO WEEKS LEFT TO CROSS ROCK CLIMBING OFF HIS SENIOR BUCKET LIST
Hometown: Nutley, NJ
Eating Club/Res College/Affiliation: Whitman!
How did you first get involved with slam poetry?
I wrote on my own for a few years but never shared it with anyone. Then one of my friends saw a poem I had lying around my room, grabbed it, and ran out. She came back a little while later saying I should really share it, so I did a few open mic nights and Whitman Coffeehouses. As people started encouraging me to look into Ellipses, I reached out and went to my first meeting last spring, and I fell in love with it.
Where do you get inspiration for your poems?
I tend to write about my own experiences, so my inspiration for the subject matter usually comes from my own life—family, romance, etc. As for performance and style, I don’t know if I have any specific poets that I can point to as inspirations, but just in general, watching other poets perform is a huge inspiration.
What is your writing process like?
I usually end up realizing I have something I want to write about or express, and when I sit down to write, it usually comes out in one sitting…but it’s usually a complete piece of crap. So then I will bring it to other people in Ellipses and talk about it as we revise it.
What does it feel like to perform slam on stage?
It’s kind of terrifying sometimes because it’s so vulnerable and you’re putting a lot of personal stuff out there. I’m also always nervous, even if I’ve gotten more comfortable over the past year or so. More than anything, it feels relieving and cathartic, though.
How do you feel about your videos going viral?
Of course I’m thrilled, especially since so much feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. But it’s also really weird. I don’t really know how to process it, and it’s still strange knowing that my life story is so public now.
The rumor mill says Harpers Publishing offered you a book contract! Is this true?
Okay, y’all need to calm down. I will say that I have been presented with some opportunities as a result of these videos, and that may include discussing the possibility of publishing with certain publishers, but even if that were the case, nothing is guaranteed or has even been offered. But the fact that I have any opportunities at all as a result of all of this is incredible.
Who are your favorite poets?
As far as spoken word poets, I’d say Sarah Kay, Hieu Minh Nguyen, Sam Sax, Danez Smith, Mahogan
For more “page”-y poets, I’d say Oscar Wilde, John Keats, Frank O’Hara, Gwendolym Brooks, and so many more
Where’s your favorite place to write on campus?
It’s a little boring, but honestly just in my room, with a blanket and hot chocolate.
Who’s your favorite Princetonian, living or dead, real of fictional?
Carlton Banks! I’m not even ashamed of my Fresh Prince of Bel-Air obsession.
What’s your favorite part of Princeton?
The friends I’ve made here, and the campus itself—I could walk around for hours and be happy.
Also the free food. All of the free food.
In one sentence, what do you actually do all day?
I fight the forces of evil and crime with my unique blend of chocolate and coconut water-based justice.
What’s hanging above your desk?
A huge X-Men poster.
What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh: Other people falling
Cry: Me falling
What’s your greatest guilty pleasure?
Not anymore, but I used to watch Degrassi religiously and had gone back and seen all of the episodes of the current version of it. All ten or so seasons up to that point.
What’s on your playlist?
Beyoncé essentially is my playlist. But also Sara Bareilles, Taylor Swift, Grace Potter, Fleetwood Mac, Rufus Wainwright, and all sorts of pop.
This year it’s been somewhere around 2 or 3 AM most nights. I told myself that was okay since I didn’t have class before 12:30.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned at Princeton?
How to avoid doing laundry for as long as possible while still seeming presentable.
What’s one thing you would like to do before you graduate?
Go rock climbing—for four years I kept telling myself to take advantage of the wall and never did.
What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve done this past year?
When four other members of Ellipses and I were in Colorado for CUPSI, the national college poetry slam, we drove to the top of one of the mountains (they called them hills, but they were obviously mountains. They had snow at the peak and everything). And we climbed out to the edge and took in the view, which was amazing. But also if I slipped, I would have fallen straight down.
In 25 years, you will be…
47. And hopefully married, with a wonderful family, financially secure, and doing something I love, whether that’s still poetry or working at an educational institution, or something totally different. Who knows!
What’s one question you wish we had asked and answer it.
What would the title of your memoir be?
Probably “#MLIPatrickRoche” or “It Gets Bitter: The Patrick Roche Story,” or “Riding Tandem Bikes Alone,” but that will probably work better as a book of poetry.
Watch Patrick’s performance of “21″: