Comments on Amiri Baraka


Amiri and Baz at the Poetry Project, February 17, 2013. Photo by Pierre Joris.
Amiri and Baz at the Poetry Project, February 17, 2013. Photo by Pierre Joris.

Above, Amiri and Baz at the Poetry Project, February 17, 2013.  Below, LeRoi and Baz and Gil Sorrentino,  May,  1963, excerpt from Learning to Draw, A History, Basil King, Skylight Press, 2011:

It was crowded in McSorley’s. All the bartenders knew Leroi Jones, Gil

Sorrentino and Basil King. From one of the tables racial slurs were being

directed at Leroi. There was no mistaking what the cops from New Jersey

were saying. The cops were without their wives and girlfriends. They felt

entitled to say anything they wanted and there was no one who could stop

them. They didn’t have any jurisdiction but that wasn’t stopping them

and if they didn’t know it they were inciting not only the three of us they

were pissing off most of the clientele. They were told to stop by one of the

bartenders. They didn’t.


Was it Gil was it Leroi was it someone else. Movies always tell and show

who started it. Gil was a large man I’m a few inches taller than Roi (Amiri

Baraka) what I remember is a free-for-all arms chairs and fists and in the

midst of it I heard Brian the bartender croaking “Gil it’s me, Brian.” Gil had

his hands around Brian’s throat and he was choking him. Did the police

come I don’t remember but the New Jersey cops who had demonstrated

what they were made of went back to New Jersey. Gil was licking his

knuckles and he went home.


Martha wasn’t home she was visiting her parents in North Carolina I went

with Roi back to his house and we climbed the stairs and told our story to

Hettie. Big Hettie is what my kids called Hettie Jones at that time she was

taller than her namesake our daughter Hetty. Big Hettie got the iodine,

band-aids cleaned the two of us up and I stayed and slept on their couch.


Yes. Pause.  As we all go on.

3 Responses

  1. Harry Lewis


    A long pause! Ohh

    Basil is one of the few who has learned what to do with memory — HE uses it here and now!

  2. M G Stephens

    Hey, Baz, great stuff. Was this the same incident you told me about, years ago, in which Jones stuffed somebody in a garbage pail? or was that a different fight? I was so pleased to have heard him at the British Library about a year ago.

    • Martha King

      Baz says that was a different fight. Old days, right? –Martha