Sunday, 21 June 2015

Amiri Baraka

Image by Sharon Harris


The many faces of Amiri Baraka – there is no way I could ever do them justice in a short introduction like this. His work spans such a vast terrain - from his early Beat years in the 1950s and early 60s in Greenwich Village, where he co-edited the literary magazines Yugen and The Floating Bear, to his Harlem-based years after the death of Malcom X in 1965 which saw his involvement in Black Nationalism; and finally his turn to a more multicultural, Marxist approach in the 1970s.

Baraka’s impact on the American literary scene has undoubtedly been very great. As Arnold Rampersad wrote in the American Book Review:
“More than any other black poet […] he taught younger black poets of the generation past how to respond poetically to their lived experience, rather than to depend as artists on embalmed reputations and outmoded rhetorical strategies derived from a culture often substantially different from their own.”
In addition to his numerous works of poetry, Baraka worked extensively as a playwright. He also published essays, short stories, and novels and wrote about African-American music. He died last year at the age of 79.

Links:
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/amiri-baraka
http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/amiri-baraka
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/baraka/baraka.htm
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/09/amir-baraka-playwright-poet-dies

My below response is loosely based on his Political Poem.



~ - ~


Love Political


It runs with reason and piles of heavy volumes

full force over the back of your hand

till the sinews quake

and you wonder how anyone was ever able

to hold on like this

in the dusk of intimacy

intimidation and third hand dreams

on tape in beat cardboard boxes

long before anyone resolved such history

into code and hung it to a cloud like childhood

summer showers

sweet and short and wet wet wet


It runs with reason

{ as reason like a rusty nail in the flower pattern

holding my great-grandparents’ wedding picture

in a faraway house

(blurry black and blurry faded)   }

and the kind of grand

words we always hoped would adorn our

withered skin one day

pale like parchment paper bleeding significance

and stubborn in each sans-serif line

like possibility and justice

and worst of all what they call liberty


It runs with reason as it runs with passion

the spot on my neck where they both entwine

your kiss the conception of a good life in books

and coarse ground coffee

the twelve pound subscription to the LRB

your head on my hip

your thoughts and ideas’ deep rest in my soft tissue

when Eva said there are many kinds of knowledge

(she bit the apple)

and intellect is just one of many more

I wanted to tell her yes you are right

but this is political




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