Slam poet G Yamazawa is coming to WCU

Have you ever wanted to hear a spoken word artist perform poetry? Your chance is on its way! Award winning slam poet, G Yamazawa, will grace Western Carolina University with his spunk and wit on Monday, Feb. 29, in UC Illusions at 7 p.m.

The G Yamazawa Slam Poet event is a part of the Coffeehouse Series presented by WCU’s Last Minute Productions (LMP). WCU is only one of the many stops on Yamazawa’s college tour, which includes two other North Carolina colleges – UNC Charlotte and Duke University.

Arts and Cultural Coordinator for LMP, Maven Mayfield, said they decided to bring Yamazawa to WCU after seeing him perform at the National Association for Campus Activities South Conference in October 2015. They were impressed.

“I personally fell in love with the poem he wrote for his grandmother. It gave me chills,” said Mayfield.

Yamazawa, a North Carolinian born and raised, was brought up by Japanese immigrants in Durham. He can proudly boast the titles of National Poetry Slam Champion, Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist and Southern Fried Champion. He also snagged second place at the Ontario International Poetry Slam in 2012. Both Beltway Poetry Quarterly and Asian Fortune Magazine have picked up and published Yamazawa’s unique hip-hop styled poetry.

Yamazawa has toured in over 50 American cities and five European countries. According to his website, he has shared the stage with some big-time public figures like American figure skater Michelle Kwan and Vice President Joe Biden, to name a couple.

G Yamazawa performs slam poetry on stage. Photo via

Photo via

In addition to being a widely known slam poet, according to his website, Yamazawa considers himself an advocate for youth empowerment and regularly leads writing and performance workshops for inner city youth in Washington, DC. This initiative is a part of Split This Rock, a nationally recognized non-profit organization that focuses on political poetry.

If you’re not one of the students waiting in anticipation to hear Yamazawa’s spirited rhymes, you may be wondering what slam poetry even is.

According to the Academy of American Poets (AAP), the slam poetry movement began its journey in the ’90s, bringing about a fresh new look at poetry by reverting back to its original form – spoken word. Poetry began as an oral tradition, and that same idea was reborn through many poetry slams across the United States.

A poetry slam is a spoken word competition, where poets read their original work in front of a crowd, and their poems are judged by a panel, usually on a scale of one to ten.

Young people across America were quickly captivated by the idea of slam poetry. It allowed young adults to share their ideas about the world in an artistic manner, according to the AAP. This generation of slam poetry has a main group of themes that poets draw upon: politics and current events, as well as racial, economic and gender inequalities.

Catherine Carter, an associate professor in the WCU English Department, said the slam poetry genre has made poetry more appealing and popular as a whole. People who are bored by formal or traditional poetry may find that slam poetry gives them a fresh venue where they are free to speak in their own voice.

As a poet herself, Carter appreciates the emphasis on sound that slam poetry is known for.

“A good poem is certainly still good on the page, read only by the eye, but even when it’s only read by the eye and the mind, poetry is partly about sound.  Slam poetry puts that aspect of poetry foremost, which is really nice,” said Carter.

According to Yamazawa’s website, he is widely considered one of the top young spoken word artists in the country that emerged out of the slam poetry movement.

Mayfield said LMP is striving to bring a variety of artists to WCU for the Coffeehouse series, like Yamazawa. She is hoping for a large crowd on Feb. 29, but even more importantly, Mayfield hopes students can find inspiration in Yamazawa’s performance.

The event is free, and coffee, tea and pastries will be provided during Yamazawa’s performance. According to Mayfield, there will also be free coffee mugs for the first 50 attendees to show up at the event.

Here is the official video for one of Yamazawa’s popular poems put to music, “Supa Dupa Fly”: