The writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and jazz criticism, Amiri Baraka was born Everett LeRoi Jones in 1934 in Newark, New Jersey. He moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1957 and founded Totem Press, which first published works by Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and others. He moved to Harlem in 1965 where he founded the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School.
His reputation as a playwright was established with the production of Dutchman at Cherry Lane Theatre in New York in 1964. The controversial play subsequently won an Obie Award for Best Off-Broadway Play and was made into a film. The author of several volumes of poetry, an autobiography, and numerous essays on culture, music and politics, Baraka also founded the jazz/poetry ensemble Blue Ark.
In 1994, Amiri Baraka retired as Professor of Africana Studies at the State University of New York in Stony Brook, and in 2002 was named Poet Laureate of New Jersey and Newark Public Schools. In the fall of 2002, Baraka came under fire from the New Jersey office of the Anti-Defamation League, the New Jersey Assembly and others after a reading of his controversial poem ‘Somebody Blew Up America’ about the 9/11 attacks.
According to Professor Sean Ryder, Chair of English and Acting Director of the Moore Institute at NUI Galway: “Amiri Baraka has been a cultural catalyst in the US for over 50 years, impacting upon and inspiring writers, students and the wider public. We are thrilled that he is coming to our campus, and our students of English are enthused about meeting in person an author they study and admire.”
Amiri Baraka’s numerous literary honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the PEN/Faulkner Award, and many others. His book Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music was selected as a winner of the 31st annual American Book Awards for 2010.
The reading, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 5pm in the O’Flaherty Theatre in the Arts/Science Building.