Sunday, April 26, 2020
An enriching Amiri Baraka creative critical domain
Among other things, James Smethurst's Brick City Vanguard represents the power of a rich creative critical domain focusing on an black author, in this case Amiri Baraka. Smethurst opens his book noting that he's building on previous Baraka scholarship by William J. Harris, Aldon Nielsen, Meta Du Ewa Jones, Fred Moten, Carter Mathes, Nathaniel Mackey, Kathy Lou Schultz, Tony Bolden, Werner Sollors, Kimberly Benston, Jean-Phillipe Marcoux, and Lorenzo Thomas. And Smethurst then adds "to name a relative few."
Further, Baraka's autobiography, interviews with Amini Baraka, histories of Newark, a review of Baraka's Blues People by Ralph Ellison, and more items all contributed as well to the nature of this enriching Amiri Baraka creative critical domain.
I can think of many writers that I admire and would love to see as subjects of books like Smethurst's Brick City Vanguard. But not many writers have the kind of expansive, dynamic body of critical works on them that Baraka has. We're talking about a discourse and creative domain that has been ongoing and developing for more than fifty years.
The expansive nature of Baraka-related items makes the realm both wonderful and intimidating. It wasn't easy, I'd imagine, for Smethurst to make his way through so much of it. But I'm glad he took the time, as it pays off in the production of a work that further enriches the domain.
• A notebook on the work of James Smethurst