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Beautiful EnemiesFriendship and Postwar American Poetry$
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Andrew Epstein

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195181005

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195181005.001.0001

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Amiri Baraka and the Poetics of Turning Away

Amiri Baraka and the Poetics of Turning Away

(p.166) 5 Amiri Baraka and the Poetics of Turning Away
Beautiful Enemies

Andrew Epstein

Oxford University Press

The supreme importance of turning away—and its centrality to the definition of poetry itself—speaks volumes about Amiri Baraka's poetics and the course of his volatile, controversial career. The strenuous effort to push off from whatever has moved him, at whatever cost, is truly the soul of Baraka's work. Baraka's emphasis on “turning away” closely resembles the idea of “abandonment” so important to the brand of radical, experimental individualism that begins with Ralph Waldo Emerson and energizes the New American Poetry of Baraka and his compatriots. Baraka's relationship with the white avant-garde community is not, as most accounts have it, a simple case of a young, confused African-American poet desperately searching for his “true” voice, eventually triumphing by shedding his white friends and their way of writing and at last arriving at a more political and “blacker” art.

Keywords:   turning away, Amiri Baraka, poetics, abandonment, individualism, New American Poetry, avant-garde, African-American poet, blacker art

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