The road trip that leads to self-understanding is a popular American myth. For poet, teacher and native New Yorker Sekou Sundiata, the decision to get on the road was provoked by events that gave him a stunningly strong feeling of national identity and prompted a road trip to try making sense of this feeling.

Sundiata’s two-year-long tour of residencies at universities around the nation resulted in a work called “the 51st (dream) state,” which he brings to the Power Center at 8 p. m. Saturday. In conversations with a range of Americans, the poet gathered a sense of how the nation has changed since Sept. 11. Instrumental music, singers, dance and Sundiata’s own poetry communicate what he discovered.

In a public Brown Bag lecture at the Institute for the Humanities Tuesday, he described walking out of his downtown New York office to the World Trade Center site. The moment felt surreal, bringing him a sense of true “Americanness.”

In his travels, Sundiata engaged those he met in conversations about the current state of America. The personal accounts he heard fueled this piece, which looks critically at what he called “the estrangement between American civic ideals and American civic practice.” A sense of shared emotions after Sept. 11 suggested to the poet the “dream state” or “common ground” as he put it, which is the piece’s title.

“Serious critique that’s beyond complaining is deep caring. I wanted to get at the language of that,” Sundiata said during the lecture.

As part of his residency with the University, Sundiata will also lead workshops in today’s day-long public conference on the role of arts in the community at the Michigan League.

the 51st (dream) state

Saturday at 8 p.m.

At the Power Center

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