Never miss a post
Your email address:*
Name: 
Please enter all required fields
Correct invalid entries

Categories

« The New York School Diaspora (Part Fourteen): Jessica Guzman [by Angela Ball] | Main | Stephanie Paterik: Finding Success in Business & Creativity with the Editor-in-Chief of Adweek  »

September 14, 2021

Comments

A very generous review of Baraka, whom I haven't been able to read since he defamed the Jews in his infamous 9/11 poem.

Tony, thank you for your comment. I too have difficulty with some of Baraka's statements, in poetry and prose. The most glaring of those was in the poem you refer to, "Somebody Blew Up America." I would only recommend, as in all other cases, reading (or re-reading) the original text in its entirety before deciding. Gerald Stern, one of the poets who nominated Baraka to be NJ Poet Laureate, said about the stanza in question, "I am sensitive to what appears to be the anti-Semitic utterance, which reflects that Jews knew in advance [about the Sept. 11 attacks]. I'm sensitive as a Jew. However, a man is allowed to be paranoid." And Robert Pinsky noted, "Poets are people; their works are human works. We all likely know, or can easily imagine, people capable of saying stupid, vicious things who also sometimes say beautiful or wise things... In other words, each of us, and each of our works, is to be judged on the merits. Moral viewpoint is among the merits, I think."

Also keep in mind, the stanza referred to "Israeli workers" not "Jews".

Robert Pinsky is a diplomat but I attended a talk in which he excoriated Baraka for that poem in no uncertain terms. Be that as it may, there are those who believe Baraka was a more interesting writer when he was Le Roi Jones. Do you have an opinion? My MFA adviser told me he and Frank O'Hara were good freinds, and that he is Roi in "Personism."

Jill, that is a good question. My short answer is no, I think Baraka is interesting throughout. I recommend getting hold of a copy of SOS: POEMS 1961-2013 and reading it all the way through. I think Baraka evolved as a poet, adapting different techniques and modes to changing situations. His gift as a verbal wizard remains throughout. That gift is also palpable in much of his prose writing. Check out the story "The Screamers" among others. And yes, he and O'Hara were very good friends: "[Personism] was founded by me after lunch with LeRoi Jones on August 27, 1959, a day in which I was in love with someone (not Roi, by the way, a blond)." He also features in O'Hara's "Personal Poem" in LUNCH POEMS.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Best American Poetry Web ad3
Cover
click image to order your copy
Cover
"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly

Radio

I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

ThisWayOut
Click image to order

 


A creative communications, branding, and resources consultancy founded by Victoria C. Rowan

 

Reach a Wide International Audience


Advertise on the Best American Poetry Blog


StatCounter

  • StatCounter