Amiri Baraka

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Analyze the political tone in Amiri Baraka's "Somebody Blew Up America".

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The tone of Amiri Baraka's poem, "Somebody Blew Up America," is characteristically angry and aggressive. The poem is a long stream of hectoring, anaphoric, rhetorical questions asking who committed various atrocities. The poem was written in the wake of the attacks on America that took place on 11 September 2001. It begins by asserting:

They say its some terrorist, some barbaric Arab in Afghanistan...

The poem goes on to link the September 11 attacks to many other events, domestic and foreign, and asks who is to blame for them all. There are no answers. The poem ends with an insistent repetition of the question.

The political message lies in the answer that the reader is supposed to supply, but this answer is not always clear. Some, like "Who stole Puerto Rico?" and "Who forced opium on the Chinese?" are matters of historical record. Although the most specific answer is different in these two cases, it appears that the poet has a more general category in mind, such as "Western imperialists" or "rich white people." These answers would fit most of the long stream of questions that make up the poem.

This sequence imitates the "call and response" method of an evangelical preacher, and the poet's political intent is clearly to elicit a response from the reader. The poem's object is forcing the oppressed to identify their oppressors.

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