EVENT DESCRIPTION: 6:00 pm, Friday, 25 July 2014. Center for Marxist Education, 550 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA. Poet-critic David Grundy will lead a seminar on the poetry of Amiri Baraka. Following a formal talk and moderated discussion, Grundy will read from his recent poetry.
TALK TITLE: The Life and (S0cial) Death of Metaphor in Amiri Baraka
TALK DESCRIPTION: This talk posits that capitalism is a world-system whose propagandistic construction rests in part, on disguised metaphor and myth; and, more controversially, perhaps, that poetry is one of the places where this can be brought to a pitch, an outside, opposed and reversed. For, as Lorenzo Thomas puts it in a 1978 interview with Charles H. Rowell, if the poet cannot directly effect political change – the poem, not as a “functioning political entity – as rhetoric to be acted upon”, but as “creating consciousness, which will then inspire people to act” – they can rhetorically, metaphorically and symbolically participate in the creation and exploration of a collective consciousness constantly denied and diverted in capitalism’s mythos; can provide alternative metaphors and methods to live by. Given this, I will consider poetry written by Amiri Baraka in the first half of the 1960s, in which, through the use and examination of metaphor, poetry itself is tested as a place where such “possibilities of statement” might or might not shade over into “simple act”, might go beyond “the twisted myths / of speech.” Reference will also be made to the work of recent theorists of ‘Afro-Pessimism’, in particular, Frank B. Wilderson III: Wilderson’s notions of ‘social death’ and ‘natal alienation’, borrowed from Orlando Patterson, will be applied to Baraka’s work.
BIO NOTE: David Grundy studies at the University of Cambridge in England. He co-runs the reading and publication series Materials.
SEMINAR MATERIALS: We strongly encourage attendees to read through the materials linked to below in advance of the seminar:
1) Amiri Baraka, Various Poems.
2) Frank Wilderson, III, “Gramsci’s Black Marx: Wither the Slave in Civil Society?” Social Identities, 9.2 (2003).
3) Frantz Fanon, excerpts from White Skin, Black Masks (1967).
4) David Grundy, “Happy Now” (2013).
5) David Grundy, “The Problem, The Questions, The Poem” (2014).