nUkiEmOLe poetRy by Others #17/ 13 fEb 2020
Short Speech to My Friends, by Amiri Baraka
Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014) was one of the most prolific African American writers of the 20th century. Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was an acclaimed poet and the Obie-winning playwright of Dutchman. His long list of writing credits includes: Blues People; Home; Social Essays; Black Fire; Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka / LeRoi Jones and Selected Plays and Prose of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones. Up until his passing He continued to be active in the struggle against racism and capitalism, to organize artists, and to participate in the struggle for Black Liberation.
In July of 2002 Baraka was appointed the 2nd Poet Laureate for the state of New Jersey. After a public reading of the poem “Somebody Blew Up America” at the September 2002 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. The poem was accused of being anti-Semitic (completely missing the point of the poem – judge for yourself). The outrage was so intense Baraka was asked to step down as Poet Laureate by the Governor. When Baraka refused the state passed legislation to eliminate the position. Baraka is the father of the current  Newark Mayor, Ras J. Baraka
Short Speech to My Friends
A political art, let it be
tenderness, low strings the fingers
touch, or the width of autumn
climbing wider avenues, among the virtue
and dignity of knowing what city
you’re in, who to talk to, what clothes
—even what buttons—to wear. I address
/ the society
the image, of
/ The perversity
of separation, isolation,
after so many years of trying to enter their kingdoms,
now they suffer in tears, these others, saxophones whining
through the wooden doors of their less than gracious homes.
The poor have become our creators. The black. The thoroughly
Let the combination of morality
Is power, the enemy? (Destroyer
of dawns, cool flesh of valentines, among
the radios, pauses, drunks
of the 19th century. I see it,
as any man’s single history. All the possible heroes
dead from heat exhaustion
at the beach
or hiding for years from cameras
only to die cheaply in the pages
of our daily lie.
has pretensions toward literature
one toward the cultivation of errors, arrogance,
and constantly changing disguises, as trucker, boxer,
valet, barkeep, in the aging taverns of memory. Making love
to those speedy heroines of masturbation or kicking literal evil
continually down filmy public stairs.
would be silence. To shut up, even such risk
as the proper placement
of verbs and nouns. To freeze the spit
in mid-air, as it aims itself
at some valiant intellectual’s face.
There would be someone
who would understand, for whatever
fancy reason. Dead, lying, Roi, as your children
cane up, would also rise. As George Armstrong Custer
these 100 years, has never made
“Short Speech to My Friends” from The Dead Lecturer (1964), reprinted in S O S: POEMS, 1961-2013 © 2014 by The Estate of Amiri Baraka; collection edited by Paul Vangelisti; recorded with the permission of the publisher, Grove Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. Previously published in Transbluesency: The Selected Poetry of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones (1961-1995) by Marsilio Publishers, 1995.