By Leslie D. Rose
In August 2014, G. Yamazawa was a member of the National Poetry Slam championship’s winning team, D.C. Beltway Poetry Slam.
On May 16, he said goodbye to the D.C. area and hello to a road trip, which will ultimately land him in his new home city, Los Angeles—all the while visiting poetry slams across the nation, including Baton Rouge’s own Eclectic Truth poetry slam and open mic.
But Tuesday, May 26 won’t be his first, or even his second visit to Baton Rouge.
“I remember in 2011 on my first poetry tour, me and my touring partner Kane Smego had a workshop with [Teen 360] and also a [Soul by Demand] performance later that night. It was an audience that was used to hip hop so it was a great feeling to perform our poetry for such a receptive crowd. Just mad love,” he said. “I’ve truly seen a beautiful, loving, organic poetry and spoken word culture in the brief moments I’ve spent in Baton Rouge.”
And because of the Baton Rouge culture Yamazawa has seen, he said he is looking forward to his upcoming performance. He said he hopes that audiences will get to know him through his hip-hop infused poetry style.
“I think my foundation in hip-hop gives me mobility onstage and within my voice, and I try to use my personality to connect with the audience as much as possible,” he said. “I prefer intensity over volume. I hope that the audience will be open to being moved in any capacity. I also give great hugs.”
Not only is Yamazawa fresh off of a winning poetry slam team, but the young poet is also well traveled. He’s just recently returned to the states from a poetry stint overseas at the first ever Abu Dhabi International Poetry Festival along with old friend Smego, and four-time individual National Poetry Slam champion, well-respected author Patricia Smith.
“The greatest thing about international travel is how much it humbles me as an American and makes me appreciate our freedoms, yet also reflect on our darkness as well,” he said. “Being in Abu Dhabi with Kane and Patricia Smith was intense because, one, Patricia Smith is Patricia Smith, and two, because it was a beautiful way to fully dive into Arabic culture through an artistic exchange. It’s difficult to put into words, the feeling that sharing my story has taken me to different corners of the world.”
Originally from North Carolina, Yamazawa, who is Japanese, has built a dynamic career filled with lots of opportunity. He credits his hometown for fully preparing him for what he’s achieved and what’s to come.
“I realized that growing up in North Carolina really prepared me for the stares I would get internationally,” he said. “Not in a bad way, but because I had such a diverse outlook on culture during my childhood, it is allowing me to examine the world through an extremely inquisitive lens.”
Yamazawa relocated to D.C. to grow outside of his home community, and his move to Los Angeles falls along the same lines. This time, though, it has more to do with his heritage than his culture.
“I’ve been seeking a larger community of artistic mentors in the Asian American community, and I think it’ll be spiritually beneficial for me to be able to touch the Pacific Ocean consistently,” he said.
“I plan on pouring my life into my next album and doing cross-cultural exchanges between [the United States] and Asia as well. I’m driving across country this month, and this Baton Rouge performance is actually part of the transition tour.”
Yamazawa will be bringing along his hip-hop project 23, spoken word album Growth and chapbook Southern Fried Rice, all at $10 each.
The poetry event will also host its final qualifying slam Individual World Poetry Slam preliminary tryouts to select a representative for the international competition to be held in D.C. in October—a competition in which Yamazawa has been a two-time finalist.
The Eclectic Truth Poetry Slam and Open Mic
Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge
427 Laurel St.