R.I.P. Dept.: Politically Radical Poet/ Playwright Amiri Baraka Dead at 79

Photo via beatdom.com.

Amiri Baraka, a major figure in the “Black Arts” movement of the ’60s and ’70s, is dead.

He was 79 years old.

Baraka once said, “We want poems that kill.”

Wikipedia: “Rather than use poetry as an escapist mechanism, Baraka saw poetry as a weapon of action. His poetry demanded violence against those he felt were responsible for an unjust society.”

“Somebody Blew Up America”:

The New York Times wrote:

Amiri Baraka, a poet and playwright of pulsating rage, whose long illumination of the black experience in America was called incandescent in some quarters and incendiary in others, died on Thursday [January 9. 2014] in Newark. He was 79.

His death, at Beth Israel Medical Center, was confirmed by his son Ras Baraka, a member of the Newark Municipal Council. He did not specify a cause but said that Mr. Baraka had been hospitalized since Dec. 21.

Mr. Baraka was famous as one of the major forces in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ’70s, which sought to duplicate in fiction, poetry, drama and other mediums the aims of the black power movement in the political arena.

Among his best-known works are the poetry collections “The Dead Lecturer” and “Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones, 1961-1995”; the play “Dutchman”; and “Blues People: Negro Music in White America,” a highly regarded historical survey.

“Black Art,” Amiri Baraka reads his poem with Sonny Murray on drums, Albert Ayler on tenor saxophone, Don Cherry on trumpet, Henry Grimes on bass, Louis Worrell on bass, for the album Sonny’s Time Now:

For the rest of the New York Times obit, head here.

Baraka was a friend of Allen Ginsberg.

Wikipedia: “In 1954, he joined the US Air Force as a gunner, reaching the rank of sergeant. After an anonymous letter to his commanding officer accusing him of being a communist led to the discovery of Soviet writings, Baraka was put on gardening duty and given a dishonorable discharge for violation of his oath of duty.[citation needed]

“The same year, he moved to Greenwich Village working initially in a warehouse for music records. His interest in jazz began during this period. At the same time he came into contact with avant-garde Beat Generation, Black Mountain poets and New York School poets. In 1958 he married Hettie Cohen and founded Totem Press, which published such Beat icons as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Their literary magazine Yugen lasted for eight issues (1958–62). Baraka also worked as editor and critic for Kulchur (1960–65). With Diane DiPrima he edited the first twenty-five issues (1961–63) of their little magazine Floating Bear.”

A July 6, 1994 lecture by Amiri Baraka on the politics of poetics. The lecture ends with a question and answer period covering topics such as jism and jazz, grants in music, whores, hypocrisy, Bob Dylan, and Noam Chomsky.

“Dope”:

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2 thoughts on “R.I.P. Dept.: Politically Radical Poet/ Playwright Amiri Baraka Dead at 79

  1. While I love your Dylan stuff, your article on Baraka omits one key biographical element – namely that he was a vile anti-Semite. Whether or not he surrounded himself with Jewish colleagues and a wife, we both know that anti-Semites often keep the company of Jews for a myriad of reasons, both psychological and expedient.
    Please the article below.

    http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-News/Amiri-Baraka-black-poet-condemned-as-anti-Semitic-dies-337808

    1. I should have included that in my post and I’ll look at the link you included and will likely modify my post. I hate racism and anti-Semitism and sexism — all of it. No excuses for Baraka in that regard. But I can’t dismiss the positive things he did either. I will definitely take a look at the link you included. Thank you for that, and for bringing this up.

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