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Amiri Baraka (born Everett LeRoi Jones; October 7, 1934 – January 9, 2014), previously known as LeRoi Jones and Imamu Amear Baraka, was an American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music criticism. He was the author of numerous books of poetry and taught at several universities, including the State University of New York at Buffalo and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He received the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, in 2008 for Tales of the Out and the Gone.
Baraka’s career spanned nearly 50 years, and his themes range from black liberation to white racism. Some poems that are always associated with him are “The Music: Reflection on Jazz and Blues”, “The Book of Monk”, and “New Music, New Poetry”, works that draw on topics from the worlds of society, music, and literature. Baraka’s poetry and writing have attracted both high praise and condemnation. In the African-American community, some compare Baraka to James Baldwin and recognize him as one of the most respected and most widely published black writers of his generation. Others have said his work is an expression of violence, misogyny, and homophobia. Regardless of viewpoint, Baraka’s plays, poetry, and essays have been defining texts for African-American culture.
Baraka’s brief tenure as Poet Laureate of New Jersey (2002–2003) involved controversy over a public reading of his poem “Somebody Blew Up America?”, which resulted in accusations of anti-Semitism and negative attention from critics and politicians