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Poetry by “G” Ties Tradition and Innovation

by Sheridan Cyr

Spoken word artist George “G” Masao Yamazawa, Jr. visited Central Connecticut’s Devil’s Den on the first night of Central Activities Network’s “Alice in Wonderland”-themed welcome week of the Spring semester. G took center stage over a murmuring crowd of seemingly apprehensive students and blew away all doubt with an electrifying, compelling evening of in-your-face poetry, sprinkled thoroughly with a comedian touch.

“Poetry is not like golf,” G said, peering over the crowd. “Ain’t gotta be all quiet!” With that opening, tension fled the room. He made some conversation, warming everyone up, then transitioned suddenly from typical conversational voice to rhythmic. G’s first poem discussed “ten things you should know about being Asian in North Carolina.” G blended traditional heritage with some of the stereotypical opinions made regularly in popular culture.

Coming from a background in which his parents were strictly traditional to their Japanese culture, while growing up in a modern American city, G’s path to adulthood had been confusing at times. He found himself fighting off plenty of common misconceptions about Asian culture: some innocent and curious, and some that did not come from such a good place. All his life, he was compared to characters like Bruce Lee and Jet Lee; names G admitted to being strong and admirable characters, though a sure sign of misunderstanding of culture. It seemed as though few had the desire to get to know George Yamazawa, but were instead interested in placing him into their image of an Asian American teenage boy.

Once in class, he was asked what race he is. “Japanese,” he replied. “Oh, I thought you were Asian,” said the classmate.

G talked about his father to great lengths to share with the audience the manner in which his family stayed true to their traditions. Oddly enough, when G spoke of him, he used a thick, stereotypical Japanese accent, one which he did not possess naturally. He described the day his father gave into one of the most American things around. His father called him one day and told him it was a very special day. “Why?” asked G. “It’s a secret,” his dad said before laughing and announcing, “Today, I get… iPhone!”

While there was a fair share of humor that night, G made sure to dabble in the rougher topics in his poetry. He had a particular style of blending both lighthearted stories and personal hardships, making for an entertaining yet informative look into what those from foreign cultures endure in our roughly-edged American society.

Reserving G for a night at Central was not exactly a simple task for CAN. Samantha Rowe, head of CAN, explained that a handful of program board membersĀ attended an NACA conference prior to the event where dozens of entertainers’ information was displayed in personalized booths. Board members wander through the room and examine each potential candidate. They go through something called “blackbooking,” where several Connecticut universities join together to get one entertainer reserved in the Connecticut area for a certain time period. George Yamazawa happened to be quite popular at the conference.

G is widely considered to be one of the most popular young spoken word artists in the country. He is a National Poetry Slam Champion, Individual World Poetry Slam Finalist, Southern Fried Champion, and has toured in over 50 American cities and five European countries. If you missed him in Devil’s Den, the best chance you’ll get to see G in your lifetime is probably online.