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British rap duo help students unlock inner creativity

The Dead Poets, Mark Grist (left) and MC Mixy, conduct a workshop at Dulwich College Seoul on Jan. 30. (Dulwich College)
The Dead Poets, Mark Grist (left) and MC Mixy, conduct a workshop at Dulwich College Seoul on Jan. 30. (Dulwich College)

In an hourlong workshop, ninth grade students were tasked to write a piece about the things they loved or hated and perform it. They wrote about family, the new coronavirus and TikTok.

Students from Dulwich College in Seoul participated in a session run by Mark Grist and MC Mixy, a poetry and rap duo from Peterborough, England, also known as the Dead Poets. The workshop was the last in the duo’s Asian tour.

For 10 years the Dead Poets have toured the world, holding workshops like this to get students to think outside the box and develop their literary skills.

A former English teacher, Grist noticed that fear often prevents students from achieving their full potential.

“As soon as you have the pressure to hit those top grades, it limits their opportunities as students get concerned, scared and nervous. Fear directly prevents you from taking risks,” said Grist.

“You need to be encouraging a playfulness and give students an ability to know they are licensed and authorized to play around and make mistakes. You can’t hit the top levels without making some mistakes along the way. That’s what we focus on unlocking -- losing that fear.”

The Dead Poets’ workshops are built around performance poetry and questioning preconceived notions about poetry and rap.

“Poetry isn’t just for boring old white men with beards who sit and recite from books,” said MC Mixy. “You can have raps about flowers and poems about money, which break the stereotypes of what the old art forms were.”

“Ultimately, performance poetry is about connection with the audience. When you’re reading, performing and delivering your work, you are part of the art that is experienced in performance,” said Grist.

“It’s really fun to be creative with rhyme and composition and use that to talk about the things we’re passionate about,” said Marvin Cho, a ninth grader.

“Our hope is that the students would take away a memory and an understanding of their increased capacity to do something they thought they never could do before,” said Graeme Salt, the headmaster of Dulwich College. “They’re going to take away a confidence not just about performance poetry, but about doing something new.”

By Esther Shim (esther@shimfamily.com)
Intern reporter
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