by Amiri Baraka, Michael Schwartz (Editor)
Here, for the first time, a major African-American writer gathers in one volume the eulogies he has written and spoken, in poetry and prose, over the last 30 years. Eulogies shows Amiri Baraka's writing at its most personal and profound; the solemnity of his subject matter leads Baraka to meditate on matters both political and spiritual, to examine the status of African-Americans in the United States and ultimately to reflect on the nature of life and death.
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 caringespecially for young Newarkites cut down before their primeis 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 Piero. (Dec.)
Paperback: 260 pages