The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Dedicated to Kellie Jones, the author’s daughter, who was born on May 16, 1959, Amiri Baraka’s “Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note” suggests a turning point in the poet’s relationship to American society in the late 1950’s. Written from a first-person perspective, the poem, likely a reflection of the poet’s own concerns and personal experience, is autobiographical in tone, though the point of view could be that of a fictive voice struggling with the same issues.

Then known as LeRoi Jones, Baraka is one with the persona of the poem. In a confessional tone, he meditates upon his own existence and renders a number of observations associated with apparently daily actions of domestic life. The poet first describes becoming “accustomed to the way/ The ground opens up and envelopes” him as he is engaged in such a mundane activity as walking his dog. Immediately, there is a mood of repetition, the recurrence of daily chores or duties, but these actions are linked to more complex psychological states—the sensation of the “ground” opening up—and are beyond expected expressions of boredom connected to numbing repetition.

Certain ruminations occur at night, and the poem implies a spiritual awareness of personal vacancy associated with the thought processes set free by recognizing one’s place in the cosmos. The “I” voice also observes the “broad edged silly music” of the “wind,” which is linked to racing to...

(The entire section is 439 words.)