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Powers of PossibilityExperimental American Writing since the 1960s$
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Alex Houen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199609291

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609291.001.0001

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‘This Black World of Purest Possibility’

‘This Black World of Purest Possibility’

(p.62) 2 ‘This Black World of Purest Possibility’
Powers of Possibility

LeRoi Jones

Amiri Baraka

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines a range of Baraka's writings (poems, plays, and essays) from 1960 to 1979, during which time he changed from being a Beat‐affiliated writer (named LeRoi Jones) to a Black Cultural‐Nationalist, then a Pan‐Afrikanist, and finally a Third‐World Socialist. The opening discussion is of how Baraka in poetry collections like Black Magic (1969) and It's Nation Time (1970) developed a Black Arts potentialism that contrasts with Ginsberg's. Various plays that Baraka wrote in the 1960s are also examined—notably, A Black Mass (1966), Slave Ship (1967), and Great Goodness of Life: A Coon Show (1967). Drawing on Howard University's Amiri Baraka Archive (which includes FBI reports on his plays and speeches), the chapter presents new scholarship on his drama and his cultural activism with groups like the Republic of New Afrika. After examining how Baraka's potentialism reaches a spiritual apogee with his poetry collection Spirit Reach (1972), the concluding discussion contrasts such spiritualism with the didacticism of his Third‐World Socialist writings such as the poetry volume Hard Facts (1975).

Keywords:   Black Power, Black Arts movement, Cultural Nationalism, affects, potentiality, performativity, avant‐garde; 1960s, race

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