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Four upcoming programs showcase an eclectic array of poetry, presenting poets as revolutionary recording artists, competitive performers and traditional academic writers.
The Last Poets, a Harlem-based group of revolutionary poets and recording artists, which Ice Cube called "the first real hard-core rappers," formed on Malcolm X Day in 1968, taking their name from a poem by South African Willie Kgositsile. Two of the seven men who have called themselves Last Poets--Adiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan--have reunited, joined with drummer Don "Babatunde" Eaton and re-emerged as a generation-spanning creative force.
Three days following the release of their fourth CD, Time Has Come, The Last Poets will visit MIT, performing a free public concert on Friday, April 18 at 8pm in Kresge Auditorium and conducting a workshop on Saturday, April 19 from 2-4pm in the Black Student Union Lounge (Walker Memorial, Rm 50-105).
"I appreciate The Last Poets more as a sober adult than when I first started," said Mr. Oyewole, who joined the group in 1969, in a Rolling Stone interview. "Back then it was strictly a reaction to the oppressor's problems. Now we're able to offer a resolution."
Although the New York Times called The Last Poets, now in their late forties, "the village elders of the rap world," Mr. Oyewole contrasted the Last Poets movement with the "nihilism and violence" of today's gangsta rap. "We channeled our attitude because there was a movement, there were things happening around us," he said. "We couldn't go off the deep end and go nasty without a cause. That's the difference."
The Last Poets are sponsored by the Campus Committee on Race Relations, Counseling and Support Services, the Graduate Office, the Office of Minority Education, the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Arts. Registration for the workshop is required. For more information, call x3-4861.
Poet Lisa King, a member of the 1993 National Championship Slam Team and an individual Boston Slam Champion, will host the Second Annual MIT Off-Line Poetry Slam on Sunday, April 20 at 7pm in Kresge Auditorium. Contestants compete by reading their own original poems--each less than three minutes long--which are judged for context and performance by randomly selected members of the audience.
The MIT Poetry Slam is limited to 21 slammers, 10 from the MIT community. A lottery for participants, who should bring at least five poems to perform, will be held at 6:20pm. Cash prizes ($100 and $50) will be awarded to two finalists. Admission for slammers and audience members is $5, $2 college students with ID, and free for members of the MIT community with ID, high school students and children.
The slam is sponsored by the Program in Women's Studies, the Council for the Arts at MIT and the DeFlorez Fund for Humor. For more information, call x3-8844.
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet John Ashbery will close out this year's poetry@mit series with a reading on Thursday, April 24 at 7:30pm in Bartos Theater (Building E15). Mr. Ashbery, author of more than 20 collections of poetry, most recently Can You Hear, Bird, is the only American poet to win all three major annual literary prizes--the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award--for one book, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1975). He has also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship. In 1992 he was awarded the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, one of the largest poetry prizes in the US.
In addition to his poetry, Mr. Ashbery has produced (with James Schuyler) the novel A Nest of Ninnies and a collection of plays. He has worked as an editor and/or art critic for Art News, Art and Literature and Newsweek. Currently the Charles P. Stevenson Professor in the Department of Language and Literature at Bard College, Mr. Ashbery has been a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets since 1988 and was the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard in 1989-90.
The poetry@mit series is sponsored by the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies and literature faculty. For more information, call x3-9469 or see
German poet/essayist Zafer Senocek has been conducting seminars on multiculturalism in Germany for German studies students and others in the MIT community this semester. Mr. Senocek, the Distinguished Max Kade Visitor in the German Studies Program of foreign languages and literatures, will present "Once Each Door Had its Own Meaning," reading his poetry in German and English (together with translator Elisabeth Oehlkers), on Tuesday, April 29 at 7pm in Rm 14E-310. For more information, call x3-6982 or e-mail
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 16, 1997.