Literary Analysis of Amiri Baraka’s Poems
Literary Analysis of Amiri Baraka’s Poems

Literary Analysis of Amiri Baraka’s Poems

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  • Pages: 3 (1137 words)
  • Published: November 10, 2021
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Amiri Baraka is an African American writer with many of his writings being poetry, drama, music criticism, and essays. Born in Newark as Leroi Jones, he attended four universities for his studies. He also served in the U.S. Air Force for three years. At the age of 26, around 1960, he started publishing his literary works. In the period of his writing, he encountered several critics and praises. Those poets who praised him included Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg, and Frank O’Hara. His critics were Arnold Rampersad, Rosenthal, Richard Howard, and Clyde Taylor. In between early 1950s and 1960’s, Baraka was famous for art of self-expression and his experience. In the years 1960s to 1970s, he coincided with several Civil Rights Movements leading to the foundation of “art as a way of freeing the Black People. He is also famous for his poems like Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, The Dead Lecturer, Black Magic, Hard Facts, and others. His renowned plays include Dutchman and A Good Girl is Hard to Find. He uses many poetic devices in his works. Examples of these devices are rhyme, meter, imagery, simile, dialect, political satire, and allusions. Baraka’s life work, especially the poems talks of American politics, mainly the struggle of African American due to racial discrimination. His work dwells more on self-reflection, talking of the struggles in the street. In his second collection of poetry, he declares poems a graph of himself. They also show a person with inner struggles and dissatisfaction. This is evident in the poem titled “An Agony. As Now” when he states that he is inside

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someone who hates him. Another line reads that… ‘Smell what fouled tunes come in to his breath. Love his wretched women.’ Here he refers to his dissatisfaction with white people although they are his associates or even friends. However, this changes as years progress.

In around 1960s, he breaks his ties with whites and becomes more radical along racial lines, to even changing his name from LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka. During this time, he shows total support for the Black Power movement and equality struggle between the African Americans and the whites. He focused his political thought to poor and disadvantaged people of color. He remained focused to his local community using his poems to show the African Americans that America is a foreign land to them. He believed that racial divide on basis of cultural consciousness splatted one’s self-consciousness (Baraka 12). He addressed all the injustices, both historically and contemporary waged on African Americans by the white Americans. One of his poems “In the Tradition” is a reminder to the whites about the strength and resilience of African Americans to the oppressions and poor public policies. He rises against the whites regarding their pride on originality of their music, stating that ‘nigger music’ defines the American music. This is evident in some of his poem lines like… “We are the composers, (you) racists”… “We the artists…. Don’t tell me….about tradition.”

In around 1980s, Black Power movement and other social movements of struggle had registered more failures than success, but issues of race

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were considered as a settled matter, but Baraka felt differently. There were many cases of racial profiling by police departments and police murders of unarmed black men. This made Baraka to come up with some code names such as ghosts, vampires, heathens, and others to refer to those who shared a racist agenda. He used the codes to attack politicians who implemented social policies that degraded people on race and class basis (Guthrie 15). The politicians by the time happened to be the Republicans. He did show any support for anyone who was against the disadvantaged citizens. He continued to write poems on the history of African Americans, mostly their struggles. In his poem, “The Griot’s Tale” some of the lines read, “Groits were the African Singer…and who are the root of our own African-American…”

The above analysis of Baraka’s poem show the politics of African American and White Americans where the African Americans come out as victims of racial and class discriminations. The politicians pass policies that seem to favor one side leaving the African Americans to live in daily struggles (Page 20). They try to form movements, but they end up failing instead of achieving their objectives. In the early years, the tension between racial differences between blacks and whites was evident. Today, things are not different as America is still suffering with racism illness even with success of Barack Obama.

Although the issue is not much public as it was during the 1950s, American culture still suffers from politics of anti-black bias. New stereotypes have emerged where African Americans are seen as less everything, mostly less hardworking and intelligent compared to whites. Political resentments of African American seen in the works of Baraka are still there in the contemporary America (Bobo para.1). Many people fought for the equality of all people in America. Some of these people include Martin Luther King, who even went to jail in his effort to liberate people of his race. Traditional authors addressed the issue in order to change America.According to Brooks, African American poetry reflects of race, where people are trying to lift their faces, unashamed of being in an alien land. They express their racial consciousness. The poets are in pursuit of liberation and ensuring cultivation of cultural voice. The fight was to eliminate the issue of racial differences to make Americas colorblind. However, even today nothing much has changed. The issues Baraka was against are still evident today. Players and artists are experiencing racial discriminations even in fields (Gabbin 2). There is no much debate including presidential ones that do not talk of racial differences. There are white and African American TV stations, a sign of rift between the two races. Although people like Baraka made efforts in trying to liberate the minorities, a lot remains to be done. People are shying from talking about the real issues that are affecting the American society today. Just like Baraka, people should mirror the ugly facets of the American society if racial politics are to end.

Works Cited

  1. Bobo, Lawrence. “Quiet Bias: The Racism of 2013”. Quiet Bias: The Racism of 2013 (2013): n. pag.
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