Note to Readers of Note to AB, by Amiri Baraka

Highlighted from the response of Mary Carol Catanese

I have been stuck on these lines for a while now. It's intriguing to think that with understanding, one can operate at the level of poetry, at the level of discourse. Even if those thoughts are radical, intellectual exploration can happen from the position of the word. But sometimes words are a call to action even if that action looks within to more closely align the true self with how one goes about in the world, struggling to “catch up” with what is there already.

So now I am seeing the blossoming of another level of consciousness as a theme, perhaps the form of the poem paralleling the way that moments of inner knowing are brought - worlds ahead -   to awareness. Not sure why, but seeing the Amiri Baraka Table triggered these thoughts.

Highlighted from the response of Rodney Anne Strabucchi

"Poetic" - lifts you out of the normal into the beautiful.

The whole world that I couldn't understand cd become poetry. (poetry is also a kind of a shortcut, see "wd" as a kind of expressing, the getting there fast)

I felt a struggle (Struggle with a capital S as Gabriel says in the video!) between whom I knew I could be and who I was. (I felt I couldl become better, improve, be a good man.)

And now AB shows us this extraordinary image, he actually sees himself as an image of himself," a little ahead of himself" , which compell him to take long strides, the fastest he can, to reach this self, putting his head down to make the utmost stretch to reach the finish line, and suddenly he is not making any effort, he is just floating, he is even with himself, and singing improvised songs of his own happiness, the language itself opening up, loosely related to jazz and joy— "there me go" "there me go".


Highlighted from the response of Teri Rife

This note to self. Leroi Jones leaving a note for Amiri Baraka? Love how it moves from traditional poetic language, punctuation, thought, to vernacular language, abbreviations, the rhythm of jazz. Dig [it?] Scat...and sing. From "I became a poet..." to "...there me go."

Highlighted from the response of Meredith Lederer

From W.E.B. Dubois -> It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.

And, digging a little deeper, I came across this blog post, and the following, which may offer some insight into why the poem seems to carry multiple levels:

"Baraka has been a great artist in many areas, including poetry, music criticism, the novel and nonfiction. But I want to talk about him as an anti-colonial writer, a man who wanted to see the world from his point of view and not the master's. Perhaps this is on my mind because I am just back from India. But what I have always loved about Amiri was his superiority (we were supposed to be the inferior ones, not them) to the white power structure or any power structure. In short, he was doing the judging, not them.

Maybe this is why he feels he needs to stretch ahead to "me ..., a few worlds ahead" - where it is more natural to be who he is, a united self, "to see the world through his own eyes --- eyes placed in a particular body and place (culture)" .....

Highlighted from the response of Mary Armour

A new poem to me and I'm feeling my way into it. What I love about reading the writers of the Harlem Renaissance in week 5 is their global reach, that they're taking on the poetic traditions of England and America alongside influences from the developing world and the 'underbelly' of black history and speaking to an aspirational and 'struggling' readership in so many different places. And the poet and activist who would become Amiri Baraka (Swahili for 'leader' and 'blessing') 'jots down for us a key transformative moment in his journey of becoming. It's not jotted down of course but it has that improvisational moment and shorthand I associate with the Beats.