Playwright Amiri Baraka's Role as New Jersey's Poet Laureate May Be Eliminated

News   Playwright Amiri Baraka's Role as New Jersey's Poet Laureate May Be Eliminated Playwright Amiri Baraka, who gained famed in the 1960s as the author of Dutchman and other fiery, racially-charged dramas, had steadfastly refused to resign his position as Poet Laureate of New Jersey in the wake of a September 11-related controversy. However, the state's Congress, apparently intent on ousting the writer, is this week considering eliminating the post altogether.

Under New Jersey state law, the Poet Laureate can not be dismissed, reported the New York Times. Baraka was asked to step down a year ago when state politicians reacted angrily to his poem "Somebody Blew Up America." The poem implied that the United States and Israel has prior knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center terrorist attacks. The New Jersey Senate has already passed a bill dissolving the Poet Laureate office, and the Assembly will entertain a similar bill this week. Governor James E. McGreevey said he supported the measure.

Baraka was born Leroi Jones and spent the first part of his career under that name. The Dutchman, which created a sensation in 1964, is a allegorical tale of U.S. race relations in which a white woman stalks the subways for upwardly mobile African-American men. His other plays include The Slave, A Black Mass and Slave Ship.