amiri baraka (leroi jones) reads Somebody Blew Up America. this is one of the most controversial poems in the last fifty years, possibly since Ginsberg's Howl. Baraka was the recipient of the honor of poet laureate of new jersey until this poem caused a stir over four lines that infer that israel may have had something to do with the 9/11 bombings. baraka, a socialist/communist, was viewed as an anti-semite. now i ask you, is being questioning and critical of a world power inherently anti-semetic just because the people of that nation state are jews? he does not once blame jewish people or culture, in fact he blames no one but poses questions that were on the minds of many people at the time following the "attack". is it possible that an outspoken black nationalist, communist, and leader of working class people has been targeted by media in a plan to discredit him? well, it worked. the governor of new jersey asked for baraka's resignation. when baraka denied this request, the gov then tried to have baraka dis-honored. meaning he would strip baraka of the title. this having no precedence, he was unable to dethrone baraka, he decided to disband the poet laureate program altogether, leaving new jersey as the only u.s. state without a poet laureate.
i spoke to baraka recently, and asked him of the charges of anti-semitism. he told me that he does not have any disdain or hatred of jews, that this claim is ridiculous but expected from those in power. whether or not you believe him to anti-semitic, the poem is great and raises a lot of valid feelings. ezra pound, largely considered america's greatest poet, was a self proclaimed anti-semite, and still we teach him in our schools and herald his poetry to be of the greatest verse penned in the english language. i wonder if we would feel the same if pound were black.