“The Terrorism of Abstraction” by Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka

THE TERRORISM OF ABSTRACTION

Why disappear & lie
      We can see you
          Why cover everything
                  w/ the sad victory
                        Of silence?

      Why pretend to see
And only advertise blindness. Why
      Claim a tongue, ears, a
            Mouth & instead produce
                  A tiny heart too jittery
                        To beat. Why costume
                              Feeling with bone shine
                                    & shallow glitter?

Why lie an “I” & vanish
Into parsed diction. Why
Enhance an empty place
With fantasy furniture
& say it is the truth?

Why not tell us something
Other than the sound effects
Of impotent evasion?

Why make believe poetry
Is about arrogant pretense
& social denial. Why
Try to trick us you can sing?

Why make words dull
To conceal passive
Submission to
Weak regret?

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012



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3 thoughts on ““The Terrorism of Abstraction” by Amiri Baraka

  1. Clutching at the Concrete
    (a reply to Amiri Baraka’s “The Terrorism of Abstraction”)

    No, make your poem large! Any poem
    that tries to be bigger than the poem
    by chattering on in chaste smallness,
    by sequestering and cataloging case studies,
    by courting familiarity in specificity,
    by stimulating all body but brain, risks
    excremental irrelevance.

    The sixth sense is memory. The seventh is
    that which concentrates the input of the first six.
    If you only write what you see when you look,
    then you’re not writing poetry. Think!

    Poetry is dream-thinking, existing not to head-nod
    recognition nor to melt into surrealism, but for the holistic
    repurposing of everything into meaningful forms.
    Good poetry is spellcasting, not annotation.

    What is retained of poetry in translation
    is of particular fascination-—
    and mostly abstraction.
    Sometimes detail is decoration.
    Walk away from the Tower of Google.

    All words are abstractions,
    all conceptual connections.
    What good is writing, memory,
    if it doesn’t renew what can’t be recreated?
    Or calculate equations of time in space,
    a matrix of echoes, nudging nuance?

    Yes, the best poetry is delicious.
    But the tongue is not the only arbiter of taste.
    The tactile is a tactic, and metaphors,
    cloning emotion unchecked, become horrors.

    You can disappear,
    too, into the granular.
    Go larger than anecdote, give more
    than fiction-envious narrative.

    Let go
    of what you’re holding
    and fall into context,
    and thence into relevance.

  2. The only non-abstract apple is the one you can eat. Any representation of an apple in word or visual image is an abstraction of the real. Aside from that, why not just write
    the damned poem and get over it.

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