Born in Newark, New Jersey, he went to Howard University, then. joined the U.S Air Force for 3 years, but was given a dishonourable discharge after accusations of communism.His early work was associated with Beat and Black Mountain poetics, however after murder of Malcolm X in 1968, Bakara left the predominantly white literary world of Greenwich Village for Harlem, where he founded the Black Arts Repetory Theatre and began an intense involvement in Black Nationalism.
In 1968, he took the Bantu-Muslim name Imanu Amiri Baraka, which means 'spiritual leader,' 'prince' and 'blessed one,' he also became the main theorist of the Black Aesthetic movement, which sought to replace white models of consciousness with African/American language and values.Later he embraced the philosophy of Marxism and became a supporter of third world liberation movement.He also supported the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system , for both black and white.
For Baraka, the ideal black artist was jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, and the rhythms and pulses of jazz and blues he has devoted and written articulately about in a career spanning over fifty years, winning many literary awards..
He has become respected for his pointed social criticism and fiery writing style, his voice incendiary, emotive, confrontational, He believes poetry should rattle readers, rather than serve as decoration.
The following poem proved to be a little confrontational, but he steadfastedly refused to refute any of it.
Somebody Blew up America
This controversy threatened to cloud the poems larger message.As journalist Jeremy Pearce explains " the poem announces the plight of the downtrodden through history, repeatedly asking 'who' is responsible for political oppression across the globe." I thank Amiri Bakara for rekindling the fire of politics in poetry.
The divisive politics of race and power continue to engage him. To Barak, the vital connection between art and politics couldn't be more clear, " There's a great flock of lies that have to be refuted, and only poetry can do that." His voice has been used to speak out against oppression and injustice,he presently believes that President Obama has failed on many foreign issues, Amiri's revolution has been fought with words,that I hope continue to be shared and not silenced, and shine a light, carry on his unflinching point of view who shares the worlds mirrors, both beauty and ugliness.
I for one wish him a speedy recovery.
( for Basil)
Luxury,then, is a way of
being ignorant, comfortably
An approach to the open market
of least information. Where theories
can thrive, under heavy tarpaulins
without being cracked by ideas.
( I have not seen the earth for years
and think now possibly " dirt" is
negative, positive, but clearly
social. I cannot plant a seed, cannot
recognize the root with clearer dent
than indifference. Though I eat
and shit as a natural man. (Getting up
from the desk to secure a turkey sandwich
and answer the phone: the poem undone
undone by my station, by my station,
and the bad words of Newark.) Raised up
to the breech, we seek to fill for this
crumbling century. The darkness of love,
in whose sweating memory all error is forced.
Undone by the logic of any specific death. (Old gentlemen
who still follow fires, tho are quieter
and less punctual. It is a polite truth
we are left with. Who are you? What are you
saying? Something to be dealt with, as easily.
The noxious games of reason, saying, " No, No,
you cannot feel, " like my dead lecturer
lamenting thru gipsies fast
The New World
The sun is folding, cars stall and rise
beyond the window. The workmen leave
the street to the bums and painters' wives
pushing their babies home. Those who realize
how fitful and indecent consciousness is
stare solemnly out on the emptying street.
The mourners and soft singers. The liars,
and seekers after ridiculous righteousness. All
my doubles, and friends, whose mistakes cannot
be duplicated by machines, and this is all of our
arrogance. Being broke or broken, dribbling
at the eyes. Wasted lyricists, and men
who have seen their dreams come true, only seconds
after they knew those dreams to be horrible conceits
and plastic fantasies of gesture and extension,
shoulders, hair and tonques distributing misinformation
about the nature of understanding. No one is that simple
or priggish, to be alone out of spite and grown strong
in its practice, mystics in two-pants suits. Our style,
and discipline, controlling the method of knowledge,
Beatniks, like Bohemians, go calmly out of style. And boys
are dying in Mexico, who did not get the word.
The lateness of their fabrication: mark their holes
with filthy needles. The lust of the world. This will not
be news. The simple damning lust.
float flat magic in low changing
evenings. Shiver your hands
in dance. Empty all of me for
knowing, and will the danger
Let me sit and go blind in my dreaming
and be that dream in purpose and device.
A fantasy of defeat, a strong strong man
older, but no wiser than the defect of love
A closed window looks down
on a dirty courtyard, and black people
call across or scream across or walk across
defying physics in the stream of their will
Our world is full of sound
Our world is more lovely than anyone's
tho we suffer, and kill each other
and sometimes fail to walk in the air
We are beautiful people
with african imaginations
full of masks and dances and swelling chants
with african eyes, and noses, and arms,
though we sprawl in gray chains in a place
full of winters, when what we want is sun.
We have been captured,
brothers. And we labor
to make our getaway, into
the ancient image, into a new
correspondence with ourselves
and our black family. We need magic
now we need the spells, to raise up
return, destroy, and create. What will be
the sacred words? 1969
Amiri Bakara: Evolution of a Revolutionary Poet