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"How I got from there to here'

Illness was inspiration for poet Sekou Sundiata, above, who suffered kidney failure, had a transplant and created a solo performance piece about the experience. "Blessing the Boats (the title is taken from a poem by Lucille Clifton, who also had a kidney transplant) is a poetic account of how I got from there to here, a chronicle of the remarkable transplant patients and organ donors I met," Sundiata writes. "Finally, though, it is a personal look at the world from a forced withdrawal, an exile for the self I had come to know."

Sundiata's poetry has been widely acclaimed. In 2000, he toured with singer Ani DiFranco. Greg Tate of the Village Voice wrote, "If Homer were a black man born in the projects, he would be this tall, fearsome-looking poet." Vernon Reid called him "a griot, a mentor, an icon."

Catherine Paykin, transplant programs director at the National Kidney Foundation, said Sundiata's show is "a must-see for all who work helping kidney patients and transplant recipients. It was humbling."

Blessing the Boats, directed by Rhodessa Jones, plays the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Shimberg Playhouse at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. $18.50. (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045;

_ JOHN FLEMING, Times performing arts critic