The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Political Poem” is a fairly short poem of twenty-eight lines, divided into three stanzas, written in free verse. Despite the title, it is no more political than most of Amiri Baraka’s poems; rather, it is a poem about the politics in American poetry.

The first six-line stanza is by far the most easily accessible. It is a short meditation on the effects of luxury on thought. Basically, Baraka is saying that luxury is a way of avoiding thought. Living in luxury is like living under a heavy tarpaulin, protected from information and ideas. In such sheltered conditions, theories can thrive easily, because they do not have to contend with unpleasant ideas or with facts which might contradict the theory.

Although there is no explicit first-person identity in the first stanza, there is no reason to think that the speaker is anyone other than Baraka himself. In the second stanza, though, a first-person narrator appears. The stanza begins with the opening of a parenthesis that never closes. This seems to be a way of signaling that the poetic voice is about to shift, and in fact, the first word of the stanza is “I,” indicating that a definite persona is now speaking. The speaker says that he has not seen the earth for years, and now associates dirt with society; the implication is that he is cut off not only from the earth but also from people. He goes on living as a natural man, but he knows that this cut-off existence is unnatural.

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(The entire section is 479 words.)