cover image The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader

The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader

Imamu Amiri Baraka. Thunder's Mouth Press, $24.95 (498pp) ISBN 978-1-56025-006-7

In his eulogy of James Baldwin--one of this anthology's previously unpublished works--Baraka writes that Baldwin was ``turned all the way up, receiving and broadcasting . . . .'' The same can be said of Baraka. For more than 30 years he has been one of our most self-revising, self-assertive writers. Culling representative samples of his oeuvre, this expertly edited volume reflects Baraka's bold ventures and about-faces. The poems of 1964's The Dead Lecturer tick like small explosives. Selections from 1963's Blues People and 1968's Black Music reveal Baraka as a superb, learned critic. With remarkable candor, an excerpt from Baraka's 1984 autobiography scrutinizes his Black Arts period. Notable among the new pieces is ``Why's / wise,'' a long poem that unfolds the story of how African-Americans' appropriation of English led to the rich oral languages of blues and jazz, from which so much of Baraka's own work proceeds. The story of Baraka's metamorphoses is itself part of the story of contemporary literature's development. Anyone seeking to understand either will find this volume indispensable. Harris wrote The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka. (June)