The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader
Ezra Pound’s observation that the artist is the antennae of the race is especially applicable to the life and career of Amiri Baraka. Few writers in the latter decades of the twentieth century have been as involved in the vital literary currents of their time, nor as sensitive to the major social changes which were both a reflection of and an influence on their life and work. As Leroi Jones, he was a central figure in the emergence of the New American poetry of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, publishing many of the Beats in landmark little magazines such as YUGEN (1959), KULCHUR (1960), and FLOATING BEAR (1961)—an attempt to develop a “popular-oriented” poetic language in the tradition of Walt Whitman or William Carlos Williams through a “hip-culture forum” for diverse approaches. Then, he was an outspoken advocate for the Black Arts movement, espousing the cause of black nationalism and heightened Afro-American consciousness in his own poetry, plays, and essays, particularly those concentrating on music. In a third stage, which continues in the present, now known by his selected name Amiri Baraka, he has become a professor/elder statesman, combining political and social commentary with an abiding interest in literature and his own evolving conception of personal literary form.
The materials collected in this reader show just how much Baraka has accomplished as a writer, an important achievement since his skills have been somewhat...
(The entire section is 441 words.)