Osip Mandelstam, the Jewish Soviet poet murdered by Stalin’s government, wrote of the USSR with noir pride: “Poetry is respected only in this country—people kill for it. There’s no place where more people are killed for it.” Having grown up in the Soviet and freshly post-Soviet Ukraine, I knew how true Mandelstam’s words were. In America, much of the poetry I encountered was light, elegant entertainment. The token New Yorker poems went well with their cartoons—and aimed for a similar affect. Amiri Baraka, it occurred to me, came as close to Mandelstam’s dictum as one can get in contemporary America—for a “career” poet, “Somebody Blew Up America” would have been professional suicide.
„My Favorite Anti-Semite: How Amiri Baraka inspired me”