Amiri Baraka: Q&A

AMIRI BARAKA is a leading African American poet, author, theatre director, university lecturer, and cultural and political activist. His controversial career spans five decades: from his 1960s involvement with Jack Kerouac and the Beats, through Black cultural nationalism to collaborations with hip-hop group The Roots. Author of over 40 books of plays, essays, poems, and music history, he’s the winner of numerous awards including a Rockefeller Foundation Award.

What three words would you say best describe you?

A revolutionary, intellectual, Afro-American

Can you talk about one of your greatest professional experiences to date?

Reading poetry in different places and in different situations have been some of the greatest experiences.  (Travelling to) Columbia, Venuezuela, the Caribbean, Italy and so on.  Meeting audiences is one of the pleasures of being able to travel.  You can see what they understand of what you are saying and what is vague to them, and sometimes, meet people who understand exactly what you are saying.

What is it about the poetry form that you are most drawn to?

It's this: how can you write a poetry with the language that you use everyday? Can you write a poem with your speech rhythms? (I'm interested in) writing that actually expresses what the American experience is. Poetry is the form I like most as it's most direct.

Which creative masterpiece do you wish you'd written?

I don't wish I have written any but the ones I wrote!