Amiri Baraka upped the ante for poet laureates. His controversial response to 9/11, Somebody Blew Up America, implies Israel and the U.S. had ties to the tragedy. The poem lit a fire under Jim McGreevey, then governor of New Jersey. McGreevey tried to remove Baraka as New Jersey poet laureate but legally didnt have the power, so he abolished the position. But Baraka wasnt discouraged. The activist/poet/playwright/jazz critic continued to get people thinking about current events, civil rights and the black-power movement.
He keeps up the intensity today with a spoken-word presentation in conjunction with the exhibit Lessons from Below: Otabenga Jones & Associates on the Menil Collections lawn. This will likely include a few offerings from his latest book, Tales of the Out and the Gone, as well as a few poems and thoughts on the current state of our nation. Those who have seen Baraka before know he doesnt really need a microphone to get his message across, but despite his bellowing delivery, we still recommend getting front-row seats. Baraka will sign books after the reading in the Menil bookstore. 4 p.m. 1515 Sul Ross. For information, call 713-525-9400 or visit www.menil.org. Free.
Sat., Nov. 17, 4 p.m., 2007