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Amiri Baraka on Art, Poetry, Freedom, Justice, and More


Happy birthday, Amiri Baraka! Here are some quotes from the writer.


“There is no justice in America, but it is the fight for justice that sustains you.”


“A man is either free, or he is not. There cannot be an apprenticeship for freedom.”


“There is no depth to education without art.”


“Art is whatever makes you proud to be human.”


“Art is a weapon in the struggle of ideas, the class struggle.”


“Thought is more important than art. To revere art and have no understanding of the process that forces it into existence, is finally not even to understand what art is.”


“If the flag of an armed enemy of the U.S. is allowed to fly over government buildings, then it implies that slavery, or at least the threat of slavery, is sanctioned by that government and can still legally exist.”


“The attempt to divide art and politics is Bourgeois philosophy which says good poetry, art, cannot be political, but since everything is, by the nature of society, political, even an artist or work that claims not to have any politics is making a political statement by that act.”


“Art in an abstract setting is one thing, but art where you’re actually telling people to do things becomes dangerous…”


“What became clear to me is that if you adopt a certain form that form is going to push you into certain content because the form is not just the form, the form itself is content. There is content in form and in your choice of form.”


“I’m looking for an alive form….One that relates to what humans still use to communicate, and the ways that they communicate, and the reasons why they communicate.”


“I don’t eschew any form, that’s my line. I’ll try anything.”


“I guess the catalyst is ideas and emotions. Sometimes you can see that the very kinds of methods that you use, remain in your consciousness, that is, if you use a lot of rhythmic kinds of methods and processes, then it means that even when you’re not doing that, that kind of presence is going to linger in your skull.”


“You try to move people to what it is that you understand about the world.”


“I always allow myself to be as free as I can be within the context of what I think I want to say. I always feel that whatever is in you is probably a little more knowledgeable about you than you. The best thing you can do is make sure it doesn’t get crazy; it’s like you’re releasing something out of yourself. It’s like you turn on a faucet and stuff starts pouring out of you but you can’t let it just run wild, but it’s certainly something coming out of you and the best thing is to let it flow but at the same time guide that flow. You can’t just be completely unconscious.”


“I know that as far as the day-to-day America of my own mind, I’m a poet. That’s the only thing I will do without nobody bothering me or asking me to do. I don’t need nothing or no one to do that. I will write poems because I am alive. I will write them on envelopes, books, paper bags. I’ll write on anything in the world, newspapers, paper towels, toilet paper, anything. That’s got something to do with your own obsession, your own modus operandi.”


“I don’t want to be held down by the language. In other words, if you just know one thing, well that’s all you can do…”


“I think anybody who is serious about language, always sees the written as a conduit for the spoken for the perception of reality. The spoken word is alive.”


“You just have to focus on what you’re doing and do that the best way you can without letting the static be louder than the music.”


“God has been replaced, as he has all over the West, with respectability and air conditioning.”


“Poetry is music, and nothing but music. Words with musical emphasis.”


“Warriors are poets and poems and all the loveliness here in the worlds.”


“Since the rich eat more
than anybody else
It is reasonable to assume
that they are more full of shit.”


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