Thursday, January 09, 2014

Amiri Baraka 1934-2014

*Updated. Here's the link to Democracy Now. They did the whole hour on Baraka I still can't get my head around Allen Ginsberg and Jean Paul Sarte getting him sprung from jail in Newark. Those were the days.

I still remember the day I bought an old Totem press copy of Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note. I was twelve, it cost five bucks (which was real money for a used book (pamphlet, really) back then) and a dozen years later I ended up in the same used bookstore replacing the long lost/discarded copy for $45.00. I didn't mind, I was happy to be reunited with the first volume of poetry I'd read that had something to say that I needed to hear.

NPR had a sloppy, generalising, "remembrance" during All Things Considered that drove home just how difficult it is to be any sort of thinking person these days, much less a public intellectual. We don't know what to do with unpopular opinions. We don't know what to do with unapologetic holders of unpopular opinions-so we smear them, but don't even attempt to do it skillfully. I don't know about you, but I'm offended on a nearly continual basis, but I'd much prefer to be offended by someone that put some thought into whatever it is they are saying-I'd like to feel they at least understand what they are saying, and believe it. I'll take real controversy over the 24 hour news cycle manufactured controversy any day where it has come to mean demanding an apology. Amiri Baraka didn't apologise for Somebody Blew Up America.

We didn't just lose a talented playwright, and poet today. We lost another link to a time when it was still possible to talk about uncomfortable subjects without feeling the need to make ourselves more comfortable. We lost another witness willing to call bullshit when history gets revised to suit the current tastes. We lost a radical that didn't try to disown the label. RADICAL. You don't need to be a leftist to appreciate the scarcity.

If I can find an obituary to link to that isn't stupid, I will but I suspect we'll have to wait for Democracy Now to do a segment.

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