You might remember Dael Orlandersmith (right). She was one of five performance poets who came over from New York at the end of 1994 to show us Brits a good rhyme, an emissary from the Nuyorican Poetry Cafe on Lower East Side, where the spoken word was suddenly muchos hip. Hailed as the sassier Nineties' answer to the Beats, the Nuyoricans (a loose generic, comprising "New York" and "Puerto Rican") toured America, were profiled in almost every publication - from Rolling Stone to The New York Times - and even, in some cases, got spots on MTV's "Unplugged". With her imposing stage presence, subject- matter as uncosseted as her Harlem background and conversational-yet-urbane delivery, Orlandersmith - an actor and playwright foremost - was queen of lexical avenue. She stood out a mile at the ICA when she took part in a London vs NYC poetry slam night.

If she had just been a fame- and fortune-hunter, she would have bitten the dust when the Nuyorican phenomenon fizzled out. But as she says: "I knew that it was going to be hot for the moment and that when it passed, I was still going to be writing. I'm as poor as a churchmouse - all I can afford to do is turn up my collar but I'll turn it up with pride."

Now 38, she doesn't appear at slams anymore, isn't attached to the Nuyoricans, or any group, and is still shrugging off the misguided "hip-hop" labels that were fastened on her back then. She devours Rimbaud over breakfast.

It's fitting that her first appearance in London since the 1994/95 tour should be a non-appearance - as part of the BAC's season of black box experimentation. She's performing two extracts from her acclaimed one-woman shows, interspersed with poetry. From Beauty's Daughter - which won her an Obie in 1995 - comes the tale of Anthony, an Italian from Brooklyn who has been forced to give up his beloved saxophone after his marriage. Monster - a story about three generations of women living, miserably, in one house - has spawned a confession from Herman, a Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivor. "It's not verbal candy," she promises. Go hear for yourselves.

Dael Orlandersmith performs at the BAC, London, SW11 (0171-223 2223) 3 & 5 June 8.15pm pounds 6 / pounds 4

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