In Memory of Radio


In January of this year poet Amiri Baraka passed away. The former poet laureate of New Jersey was often surrounded by controversy but he was more than a poet. He filled his 79 years with numerous accomplishments including starting The Black Arts Movement. According to the New York Times, “Mr. Baraka was famous as one of the major forces in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and ’70s, which sought to duplicate in fiction, poetry, drama and other mediums the aims of the black power movement in the political arena.” He was also the cause of New Jersey’s cessation of awarding the Poet Laureate and providing a voice for many of voiceless people in inner city America. Baraka was a playwright, essayist, and courter of political and socio-economic change. As a fellow New Jersey native, his voice and attention to live performance always helped me as I navigated my way to becoming a poet.

One of my major regrets is that he passed away before February 8th when he was scheduled to appear at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. I planned to be there that day, after attending the Broadway play After Midnight. The fact that I did not get to see him inspired this post.

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,
This Love.

-Amiri Baraka


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