Friday, May 31, 2024

Henry Dumas's short poems, Amiri Baraka's Low Coup

First, I discovered Amiri Baraka's low coup -- his short, dagger-like poems where he's making a funny critique or point.

Here's Baraka's "Low Coup Motive": 
     Devil sd 
     He left Heaven 
Because there 
     Was too many
That’s why he started 
Here's Baraka's "Monday in B-Flat"
I can pray 
    all day 
    & God 
    wont come.

But if I call 
        The Devil 
            Be here
        in a minute!
Some years later, I discovered Henry Dumas's short poems from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Dumas was killed in 1968. 

Here's Dumas's poem "Thought":
One of the greatest roles 
ever created by Western man 
has been the role of “Negro.” 

One of the greatest actors
to play the role has been 
the “Nigger.”
Here's Dumas's poem "Funk":
The great god Shango in the African sea
Reached down with palm oil and oozed out me

I'm not sure if Baraka was influenced by Dumas's short poems, but I do see some correlation. Baraka was familiar with Dumas's poetry too, for sure, as he wrote the introduction to Dumas's posthumously published Poetry for My People (1970).

Whatever the case, it's useful thinking about the links between Dumas's short poems and Baraka's low coup. 

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