I was lucky to have seen Amiri Baraka read many times. And I’m honored to have spoken to him a couple of times as well. Baraka’s art and criticism is/was sui generis. I was always impressed by his intelligence, his blistering wit, his commitment to radical politics. And I will always remember having heard him read his provocative poem, “Somebody Blew Up America,” and of encountering him at the Brooklyn Museum’s Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective, the familiar stack of newspapers bulging from under his arm, the sad, weary way he shook his head at some of the paintings. And if you’ve ever heard me talk about this infernal country’s two-party oligarchy, you’ve probably heard me say something I first heard Baraka say: “Right wing, left wing: same bird!”
John Madera is the author of Nervosities (Anti-Oedipus Press, 2024). His other fiction is published in Conjunctions, Salt Hill, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His nonfiction is published in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, New York State Council on the Arts awardee John Madera lives in New York City, Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.