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Friday 10 January 2014

Amiri Baraka: Monday in B-Flat


Untitled [Newark]: photo by Joshua Perez (StrangeGoodness), 25 December 2013

I can pray
all day
& God
won’t come.

But if I call
The Devil
Be here
in a minute!

Amiri Baraka (b. Leroi Jones, Newark, New Jersey 7 October 1934 d. Newark, New Jersey 9 January 2014): Monday in B-Flat

Untitled [Newark]: photo by Joshua Perez (StrangeGoodness), 11 June 2013

Untitled [Newark]: photo by Joshua Perez (StrangeGoodness), 7 June 2013

Amiri Baraka addressing the Malcolm X Festival in San Antonio Park, Oakland, California: photo by David Sasaki, 19 May 2007

Amiri Baraka encourages the audience to speak truth to power at Newark Public Library during the 75th birthday celebration in his honor: photo by Newark Public Library, 8 October 2009

Amiri Baraka, downtown Berkeley, California: photo by graybird images, 31 October 2007

Amiri Baraka performing with Amiri Baraka Speech Quartet at Festival Ars Cameralis 2009, Club Hipnoza, Katowice: photo by Ars Cameralis, 21 November 2009

Untitled  [Newark]: photo by Joshua Perez (StrangeGoodness), 14 June 2013

Untitled [Newark]: photo by Joshua Perez (StrangeGoodness), 24 July 2013

Untitled [Newark]: photo by Joshua Perez (StrangeGoodness), 13 September 2013

Untitled [Newark]: photo by Joshua Perez (StrangeGoodness), 19 September 2013


TC said...

Amiri Baraka: Wailers, from the 1982 film Poetry in Motion

Amiri Baraka as homeless man in Warren Beatty's film Bulworth (1998): "You got to be a spirit; you can't be no ghost"

Amiri Baraka: Somebody Blew Up America, Troy, N.Y., 16 December 2009

Poet Red Shuttleworth said...

"I hear the reel running out...
the spectators are impatient for popcorn:
It was only a selected short subject

F. Scott Charon
will soon be glad-handing me
like a legionaire"

Leroi Jones / Amiri Baraka
(from the poem "Look for You Yesterday, Here You Come Today," in "Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note," Totem Press/Corinth Books,1961

Some nights had terrible bloody holes... and on some nights Baraka found, a forwarded to readers, peace-in-poetry.

ACravan said...

I'm always amazed by his poetic talent and genuine charisma (as opposed to the faked Vanity Fair/People magazine variety). Watching the clips it finally dawned on me that he had died. I read the NY Times obituary and marveled once more at the way they write these things in advance, anticipating the deaths of celebrities. Yesterday in school they lectured my daughter about "microaggressions" and made her attend a workshop on the subject. The stupidity and false premises of the exercise caused her to come home angry and remain that way for some time. I far prefer real and passionate aggression in the service of something sincerely felt (preferably non-violent) than the faked, denatured, laboratory slide variety. All of this caused me to look up "microaggression" and then, "critical thinking" in Wikipedia and found what I expected to find. Poor kid. Thank heaven for real (rough and smooth) things under the sun like this. Curtis

TC said...

More and deeper craters than the moon's perhaps, still that forwarding, yes -- always a rare gift, particularly so in parlous times; and in this poet's case so often delivered with the sort of persistent courage to inspire or annoy that produces sparks of light.

TC said...

Sorry Curtis, hadn't seen that. Baraka's poetry is not short on aggression. The psychological analyses which explain his earlier aggression as having to do with guilt and self hatred are about as interesting as all other psychological analyses; life is short, where's the pool table. The later aggression has, I suppose one might say, a "dialectical" character. In any case it's difficult for me to see how anyone with a mind can get through a day and a night in this country without busting a gasket over the outrageous inequities, so anger of itself doesn't seem an inappropriate response. Effective, futile, who knows. but speaking one's mind takes courage, particularly when the speech goes against the grain.

The poem I selected shows Baraka's wicked sense of humour, probably the quality in his poetry I admire most.

Two more of similar dimension:

Ancient Music

The main thing
to be against
is Death!

Everything Else
is a


In the Funk World

If Elvis Presley/ is
Who is James Brown,

ACravan said...

Thanks for these, which are both wonderful. I first discovered this writer, as I recall, when I was a young teenager. For some reason (I don't remember and have a hard time imagining why), my parents had a copy of Dutchman in their bookshelf. Anyway, he attracted and drew you in for many reasons and I was glad to learn that in his later years he wasn't suckered by the former creepy mayor of Newark/current US NJ senator Corey Booker, who I expect will be the next person to weigh in (tediously and pseudo-tendentiously) on the Chris Christie mess. I would love to have heard Baraka's thoughts and expression on the subject. Curtis

Mose23 said...

I think dialectical is the right word. Always the product of struggle. And given the glassy-eyed resignation of much of what passes for poetry, he stands out fiercely. If he wasn't always just he had justice in mind. He was critically engaged with his own work, particularly in later year. He knew the few wrong turns he took in thought.

Probably the best writer on the Black music tradition. That ear can be seen at work in the poetry.

I wasn't expecting this at all. A real loss.

Nin Andrews said...

I love these! I agree with Wooden Boy.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Excellent post and, as always, insightful(in this case, I was tempted to write 'inciteful') comments.

I remember Baraka as a poet of huge spirit - I saw him do a mini-workshop reading with Diane Wakoski and he was amazing. Afterwards, he was extremely kind to the young poets and admirers, taking time with each person who approached, something for which I will be forever grateful.

"Red light"

The only thing we know it the thing
we turn out to be, I don't care what
you think, it's true, now you think
your way out of this.

Amiri Baraka


Came upon these opening lines from "Way Out West" the other day --

"As simple an act
as opening the eyes. Merely
coming into things by degrees. . . ."

-- another side of Amiri Baraka (back when he was LeRoi Jones) one doesn't hear about so much these days, page 358 of The New American Poetry. R I P.

Unknown said...

I can hardly speak about his going but what he sd about ED. Only hope I'd lose all my friends if I could keep the truth alive. For all I hope please invoke: "Please, Please Please!"

TC said...

Many thanks for testifying. And to those who've sent along private notes, likewise.

Many of us have our memories of the character of the man.

For Ann Woodman:

James Brown: Please, Please, Please (live)

And too... props to Joshua Perez, Newark street photographer without whose eyes we wouldn't be seeing.

William De Vaughn: Be thankful for what you've got