“Thought is more important than art. To revere art and have no understanding of the process that forces it into existence, is finally not even to understand what art is.”
— from Home: Social Essays by Amiri Baraka
Amiri Baraka died the other night on January 9, 2014. He will be missed by many of us.
Amiri Baraka (born Everett Leroi Jones) was a writer best known for his poetry. If you aren’t familiar with it, I provided a few clips of him reading, but for now just think proto-rap-by-way-of-the-Beats that was incredibly vitriolic in his younger – and more radically revolutionary – years but never lost an ounce of its vigor as he aged and continued to write until his death last week. Baraka wrote poems about being black in America, about revolution and how to get it, about living in Newark, NJ. In short, he wrote personal poetry but he wasn’t afraid to lend his voice for oppressed people of all kinds in the midst of his more subjective reflections and observations. The poet who never let his audience forget about the injustices that have been done against black folks (and other poor folks as well) in America remained an important presence in the literary world throughout his life will be fondly remembered.