Amplify: Something in the Way: A discussion of Amiri Baraka’s ‘Something in the Way of Things (In Town)’

*UPDATE: Now with video!*



Knows me? You knows Amiri Baraka is the grounding voice. Fascination. inspiration. Baraka’s work shows the way forward—we so often lose the way. Freedom.

“The real problem is you don’t know the real problem.” Remind us: Keep peeled.

A great podcast was released sometime: William J. Harris, Tyrone Williams, and Aldon Nielsen join Al Filreis (always generous) to discuss Baraka’s “Something in the Way of Things.”

I’m delighted Filreis chose to play the version of the poem from the Roots’ 2002 album “Phrenology”. The album—I bought it from the Staten Island Mall on day one—was essential in showing this young introverted weirdo that his suspicions about people being easily defined was specious—contrary to everything my small island peers had suggested. Punk. Rap. Poetry. R&B. Soul. Sound collage. Techno. Profoundly compelling instrumentation. Music as preparation. As runway.

Hard to conceive I first heard Amiri Baraka’s words 16 years ago.

Anyway, the podcast discussion is accessible and criminally brief.

After I listened to it, I was sent back to my bookshelves to hunt down a collection of Baraka’s work from 2014—the year he died—SOS.  The hardcover version of the work collects some of the poet’s final poems. That’s how I’ll be spending my night.

I had to share it with all of you in hopes you might share it as well. Be well.


For further study:

Subject Verb Agreement with Butchered Duck


when for a brief moment it is gone
now the unremarkable house two blocks northeast
burns the average color of candycorn
and by average color you mean something simple
but technical perhaps a bit too specific. no!
you mean to say what you mean to say
this is fundamental you can see the subject out your window
out beyond all that eleven degree uniform noise quiet as snow
the breath past house gift again plain
everything perceivable fences and filtered
light. your accent. can you imagine it mercurial
hunger chopping all those tender Rs into unrecognizable
duck-bits in the dawn hours from a michelin star


Portrait of a Man in a Red Turban (Self-Portrait)

look first  that's the point
how does algae grow
so deeply photosynthetic
am i asking you or am i
muttering moon mad
either way i see myself

of course  in that master's
eyes surrounded by all
the thin cracks in the pain
the crow's feet tighten
around the rosette wire
at the bottom of the sea


Wikipedia Poem, No. 142

“two mice are dead, for my wife. / mice make her legs / go watery, as they do sometimes after her climax.” Denis Johnson
and readers quiet books
        context as right pull'er vocabulary a 
disenter? iced 
     coffee, should 
          up being a dog

context 1201
    fullsizerender the newspaper or 
bush? outrage world slept, this disinterest

context 1142
          i’m going to shut up?

      context 1349
          lifter puller vocabulary: big-city 
          newspapers of 

have all 

      lifter agape why do I

       fast or 
kids are righter of culture and practitioner journey to 
the nations with wide circulation a 
small drink 
          more coffee, should 
         i give up

“Hi, Joanna”


Hi, Joanna. How have you been?
I’m well. You look well — I’m
Happy to hear you use that word.
Good. Good. Well, anyway, I’m

Concerned about your voice.
No, specifically the way you recite.
It’s … troubling. You appear snakelike
And arrested, harmless. That’s not the way.

It’s not. I wouldn’t say “short of breath”
Exactly. Let’s call it, Forked-god. Please,
Calm down. I’m going to ask you
A couple of questions about your sexual history. Is that OK?

You switch back and forth between — please,
Correct me if I’m wrong — between
Subject and solitude. That’s to say:
Radical loneliness and decimation. Correct?

Masturbation may be part of it, but I’m speaking
Broadly about a timeline of sexual partners:
Moon-god, Ocean-sent, Stoic-antler. Relevant?
Of course. Its right here on your chart, Joanna:

“Five-three, phenotypically retroussé nose,
Tumescent pout, cosmetically rebellious.”

So, why this affected staccato when you read?