Friday, November 14, 2008


A writer's relation to locale can run to the claustrophobic and acidly nostalgic-- think of Joyce's Dublin, Faulkner or Welty's U.S. South, Russell Banks's Northern badlands, Philip Roth's Newark. Oh, Newark. New Ark. The other night, travelling from Newark to Manhattan, I sat in an ark otherwise known as a PATH train. Beside me, Amiri Baraka and his wife. If you recall, in late 2001, early 2002, Baraka wrote a controversial poem about September 11, "Somebody Blew Up America." In it, he adverted to Israelis being told to stay home. A pathetic fallacy in a non-poetic sense. But the inventory of U.S. historical and political chicanery and cruelty the poem unveils is pertinent, even if the poem is not formally interesting or rhetorically innovative. Regardless, sitting next to Mr. Baraka, a poet I've long admired, as we approached the World Trade Center PATH station, was touching. He was reading the newspaper and muttering under his breath the phrases, "education" and "health care," and "Obama must..." The man still has the fiery passion of a radical and naysayer, an individual of seventy four years still determined to make art and rant against the powers of improvidence, i.e., the D.C. and Wall Street fat cats, unpoetic and ignoble felines of finance and force. Former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey stripped Baraka--and the state of New Jersey, for that matter-- of the state poet laureatship. I suppose that the title for this column is incorrect for today's subject matter . Perhaps it should read: "ALL POLITICIANS ARE THIEVES!!!" (j curley)