Friday, January 10, 2014
Poet Amiri Baraka died, age 79. He had been hospitalized in another Newark Hospital over the holidays with undisclosed problems. Baraka (Leroi Jones when he made his initial reputation) was a huge literary figure in Jersey, an activist & committed Marxist. Establishment politicians of course despised him. Strangely, Amiri was appointed Poet Laureate of NJ back around 2001, read a poem about 9/11 that offended all sorts of people, & the position was abolished rather than just firing & replacing him. There aren't many poets in Jersey who would have accepted that position, because Baraka was, like him or not, the most prominent literary Presence in Jersey. No one else came close. Only Allen Ginsberg, when he visited Jersey, as he did frequently, was bigger, & he & Baraka were old friends dating back to the Beat era. I'll be writing more about Amiri Baraka. He did influence me & figure into my education in some odd ways.
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