Newark, N.J. — Controversial New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka, whose recent poem “Somebody Blew Up America” suggested that Israel knew in advance about the Sept. 11 terror attacks, blasted his Jewish critics Wednesday, calling the Anti-Defamation League “the voice of imperialism.”
Baraka is refusing to resign his post despite calls from New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey that he step down, adding Wednesday, “I will not apologize.”
Last Sunday’s New York Times declared that Jewish life on the Lower East Side was in its death throes. Meanwhile, a gathering at the historic Eldridge Street Synagogue proved that, at least in some corners, the neighborhood’s Jewish activity was not yet gone, just showing its age.
A group of about a dozen poets aged 65 and older, and an audience twice their number, had gathered in the 115-year-old sanctuary that mellow morning for the Eldridge Street Project’s second annual Poetry Slam for Seniors.
New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka says he will fight legislation aimed at removing him from the state-appointed position, telling The Jewish Week Tuesday he was prepared to take legal action if a bill being drafted this week in the state Senate passes. “I certainly will sue,” he said Tuesday by phone from his home in Newark.
Legal experts say the controversial poet could have a good case on free-speech grounds.
I recently experienced the Hollywood blockbuster "Spider-Man," and was delighted to see mild-mannered Queens high school student Peter Parker turn himself into a crime-fighting superhero. Jews invented the modern superhero 60 years ago, developing the concept of a well-intentioned but unempowered person transformed through accident into a powerhouse. Their creations (Superman, Spiderman and the like) are descendents of the golem, which was created to protect Jews from pogroms.
In the cultural history of the second half of the 20th century, few figures — and no Jews — are more influential or pivotal than Bob Dylan.
No other artist bestrides so many trends and streams of Americana; Dylan merges folk, blues, gospel, country, rock and modernist poetry (with strong ties to the Symbolists and Surrealists). And in his relentless shape-shifting and self-reinvention he is an archetype for the age of mass communications.
It’s not unusual for strangers to tell Helen Epstein that she changed their lives. They’re referring to her 1979 book, “Children of the Holocaust,” which identified and described an experience that many sons and daughters of survivors shared but few discussed in public. After 18 years, that book — her first — remains in print, still selling.
Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian Jew who is this year’s Nobel laureate in literature, often says that he’s a medium of the Holocaust. “Auschwitz speaks through his stories,” a friend of his, the Israeli literary critic and author Shmuel Thomas Huppert, tells The Jewish Week. “His main theme is Auschwitz. He stresses the fact that first of all he’s a writer. He didn’t become a writer because he was in Auschwitz but, by being in Auschwitz, he found his major theme.”
The advent of the Sabbath has been strikingly noted in the works of Hayim Nahman Bialik, the Israeli poet Zelda, Tillie Olsen and Philip Roth too. For many Jews, a world of memories is enfolded in the familiar aroma of roast chicken or the slow dancing flames of Sabbath candles. In her new book, “The Fourth Commandment: Remember the Sabbath Day” (Harmony), award-winning writer Francine Klagsbrun explores in depth the images and symbols of the seventh day to describe its complex religious, philosophical and mystical underpinnings.
Poet, translator and publisher Peter Cole is among this year’s recipients of MacArthur Foundation fellowships, or genius awards, as they are popularly known. The no-strings-attached award, honoring creativity, includes a $500,000 stipend that is paid over five years.