G Yamazawa visits Mount Anthony Middle School

BENNINGTON — Just over four months after he was forced to cancel his visit to the school at the last moment, spoken word poet G Yamazawa made good on his promise to spend time working with students at Mount Anthony Union Middle School.

A group of about 20 students, most of them from Caitlin Powers' sixth grade class, started fundraising last spring and raised over $900 to bring Yamazawa to the middle school. They raised the money through two Poetry Slams hosted by Catamount Glass, a car wash, and a combined movie night and bake sale. They called themselves the BGH Creative Writing Club, short for Bring G Home.

Unfortunately, a delayed flight prevented Yamazawa to making it to Bennington last year.

Last Monday, Yamazawa hosted an open mic at the school, where students in the sixth, seventh, and eighth grades had the opportunity to read poems of their own, before Yamazawa performed some of his own works, including, "10 Things You Should Know About Being an Asian from the South" and "Elementary." After the performance, he ran a workshop with Powers' class and with Ava Pickering's eighth grade class.

Powers said last year 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.

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 to that end formed BGH.

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.

After reaching their goal, BGH will continue to exist, although the name has officially been changed to "Bring Greatness Here."

"This type of experience is sure not to be the last of its kind for G has expressed interest in returning to MAUMS at some point in the near future and bringing more spoken word poets with him," said Powers, "It was a powerful day for all involved and it was wonderful to see so many students be excited about poetry."

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.


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