Three men stand on stage, reciting poetry and transforming their difficult pasts into rich, explosive art. The night's structure could almost be described as a novel: shifting from character introductions, to historical exposition, slowly building to a finale composed of electric, energetic words. "This is madneess!" the Poets scream during their final piece, baring their pent-up frustration and sadness at the injustices of the world.
Dismissing the popular focus on semantic techniques such as similes and alliteration, Abiodun Oyewole passionately proclaims: "Poetry has to have imagination" - it's nothing to him unless it captures his heart. With this focus, the Poets deliver direct lines relating mostly to racial issues in America and the world. Dissenting and presenting emotive art over conga and bongo drums the members narrate, chant, echo and even sing at times to create an atmospheric journey deep into the black consciousness.
Unlike traditional musical performances, the spaces between recitations are filled with fascinating stories of people they once knew and also certain observations - virtually everything is quotable. "The national curse word for black people is motherf***er - mother is sacred to us. If we see momma getting hurt, we go to war for her."
The tone is one of pain, but interspersed with moments of joy, specifically the samba they bring to the bar. During this, the Poets conduct both sides of the room to clap a rhythm, and it's infectious. One lady gives in to the sounds and gets down in front of the stage, and bartenders briefly ding glasses in time to the musical collage. "Music is the sound of living," the Poets proclaim.
With an influence as grand as The Last Poets have, their poetry doesn't have the same impact it would 50 years ago - ideas have been developed: racial issues are now at the forefront of many minds but certain insights into the soul and an emphatic performance made the night one I doubt many will regret. Besides, repetition is a way of sustaining ideology.
The Last Poets played Peggy's Skylight on Wednesday 27 March