With more than 100 black poets participating in Ascension 78, a reading coming up on Friday at d.c. space, E. Ethelbert Miller, who founded the series in 1974, anticipates poetry dealing with South Africa, the Reagan administration, feminism and gay rights, love poems and "poems with religious overtones," pastoral poetry, performance poetry, poems that are rhymed and free verse.

"I think that the diversity among Afro-American writing reflects the diversity in the black community," says Miller, a poet himself. The marathon reading starts at 6 p.m. and goes "until," with each poet contributing up to four poems -- "very short poems," Miller hastens to add.

"One of the things that you'll find," confides Miller, who is director of Howard University's Afro-American Resource Center, "is that people have some strange poetry. Another thing is that the program cuts across age -- we have some elderly people, we have some very young people coming out of high school." Miller says there will be "a few people that have been very prominent in Washington in poetry," but a purpose of the series has always been "to provide outlets for up-and-coming writers, and if somebody wants to come and read, we will try to fit them in. The key thing to consider as a community of writers is that programs like this are important in terms of people realizing that there are other people out there writing -- that can be encouragement."