Students raise money to bring poet to Bennington

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BENNINGTON — Thanks to the efforts of a group of students, poet and spoken word artist G. Yamazawa will be coming to Mount Anthony Union Middle School next week.

A group of about 20 sixth grade students, most of them from Caitlin Powers' class, started fundraising earlier this spring and raised over $900 through two Poetry Slams, hosted by Catamount Glass, a car wash, and a movie night and bake sale. Yamazawa will be at the middle school on Monday, where he will lead workshops in Powers' class and then give a performance for the school.

Born in Durham, N.C., Yamazawa has been a National Poetry Slam Champion a cultural diplomat for the U.S. State Department, and a Kundiman Fellow, according to his website. He has also appeared on ABC, NBC, NPR, and PBS, and has toured over 200 universities both within the United States and internationally. "With notable performances at the Sundance Film Festival and the Pentagon, G continues to challenge the American perspective of race and culture, poetry and rap, and the phenomena of the human condition," reads the biography on his site.

Powers said that she often starts off her poetry unit by having the students watch videos of spoken word artists such as Yamazawa, who she has described to her students as one of her favorite humans, and Sarah K. "I've found that with sixth graders, throwing a paper in front of them and asking them to form a connection with the poetry doesn't really work," she said. Instead, the video allows the poetry to "come alive" for the students.

Later in the unit, the students each write two poems a day for 30 days. In the end, each student chooses their four best to be bound in the class poetry book.

Powers said that some of the students approached her about the possibility of having one of the poets from the videos they watched come to the school. Powers emailed Yamazawa, and he emailed her back saying that he was willing to visit the school. Powers turned the responsibility to raising the majority of the necessary funds over to the students, who formed BGH, short for Bring G. Home. The students reached out to local businesses for items to raffle off at their poetry slams.

"I want G Yamazawa to come here because his poetry blew me away, and it would mean so much for me to be able to ask him questions," said sixth grader Chase Dobson, "He would create such an impact in our school community."

"I would love for G Yamazawa to visit MAUMS because his poetry is very meaningful, said student Teagan Currier, "It would also be an honor to me, and probably my whole class, to ask him questions about himself and poetry."

Yamazawa's first album, "Shouts to Durham," was released earlier this year and charted at #37 on iTunes Top 100 Rap Albums. It is also available on Spotify.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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