Amiri Baraka, also known as Imanu
Amiri Baraka, was born in Newark, New Jersey on October 7, 1934
under the name of Everett LeRoi Jones.
He is a respected playwright,
poet, novelist and essayist who is best known for his exploration
and examination of African American experiences and his "affirmation
of black life".
He graduated from Howard University
and then published his first work, a collection of poetry, Preface
to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, in 1961. He followed this
work with The Dead Lecturer in 1964 and later produced
It's Nation Time (1970), Spirit Reach (1972), Hard
Facts (1974) and AM/TRAK (1979).
His plays include Dutchman
(1964) which won critical acclaim during its off-Broadway performances.
Two other plays, The Slave and The Toilet were
produced later that same year.
Baraka also founded The Black
Arts Repertory Theatre in Harlem in 1965. In 1968 he founded
an organization known as the Black Community Development and
Defense Organization which was a Muslim group the focused on
affirming black culture and aided African-Americans in gaining
In addition to his careers as
a writer and political activist, Baraka has also lectured at
several prominent American Universities.
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note (
Top of Page )
Lately, I've become accustomed to the way
The ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus...
Things have come to that.
And now, each night I count the
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.
Nobody sings anymore.
And then last night I tiptoed
To my daughter's room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there...
Only she on her knees, peeking into
Her own clasped hands
In Memory of Radio ( Top of Page )
Who has ever stopped to think of the divinity of Lamont Cranston?
(Only jack Kerouac, that I know of: & me.
The rest of you probably had on WCBS and Kate Smith,
Or something equally unattractive.)
What can I say?
It is better to haved loved and lost
Than to put linoleum in your living rooms?
Am I a sage or something?
Mandrake's hypnotic gesture of the week?
(Remember, I do not have the healing powers of Oral Roberts...
I cannot, like F. J. Sheen, tell you how to get saved & rich!
I cannot even order you to the gaschamber satori like Hitler
or Goddy Knight)
& love is an evil word.
Turn it backwards/see, see what I mean?
An evol word. & besides
who understands it?
I certainly wouldn't like to go out on that kind of limb.
Saturday mornings we listened
to the Red Lantern & his undersea folk.
At 11, Let's Pretend/&we did/& I, the poet, still
do. Thank God!
What was it he used to say (after
the transformation when he was safe
& invisible & the unbelievers couldn't throw stones?)
"Heh, heh, heh.
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows."
O, yes he does
O, yes he does
An evil word it is,
Notes For a Speech ( Top of Page )
does not know me. Their steps, in sands
of their own
land. A country
in black & white, newspapers
blown down pavements
of the world. Does
what I am.
in the dream, an oblique
suckling of nerve, the wind
throws up sand, eyes
are something locked in
hate, of hate, of hate, to
walk abroad, they conduct
their deaths apart
from my own. Those
heads, I call
(And who are they. People. To
myslef, ugly man. Who
you, to concern
the white flat stomachs
of maidens, inside houses
dying. Black. Peeled moon
light on my fingers
her clothes. Where
is her husband. Black
words throw up sand
to eyes, fingers of
their private dead. Whose
soul, eyes, in sand. My color
is not theirs. Lighter, white man
talk. They shy away. My own
dead souls, my, so called
is a foreign place. You are
as any other sad man here