cover image Eulogies


Amiri Baraka, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Imanu Amiri Baraka. Marsilio Publishers, $22.95 (180pp) ISBN 978-1-56886-007-7

A poet, playwright, essayist and critic, the prolific Baraka is perhaps best known as a founder of the Black Arts movement during the 1960s, and as an all-around cultural agitator. In his Newark neighborhood and among jazz musicians and other cultural figures, Baraka has also become a frequent eulogist, and this book collects more than 40. Perhaps because a eulogy is written mainly for the ear, most of these pieces do not work well as literature. Baraka too often relies on simplistic politics (AIDS is a conspiracy) and radical rhetoric (""Revolutionary Black intellectuals are dangerous to the status quo of the superpower imperialist domination""). Yet his anger at American injustice and his caring--especially for young Newarkites cut down before their prime--is palpable. Some of the eulogies, written in Baraka's free-form poetic style, might be powerful performance pieces: remembering jazzman ""Philly"" Joe Jones, Baraka rhymes ""Jones"" with ""bones,"" leading to the image of drums. Among the well-known extolled here are Malcolm X, John Coltrane, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Toni Cade Bambara, William Kunstler and Miguel Pinero. (Dec.)