I Love Music (for John Coltrane) by Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka wrote a lot of beautiful poems, but I Love Music (for John Coltrane) will probably always be my favorite. You can hear the poet recite over Coltrane’s music in a youtube video and you can read an excerpt of it below. You can find the complete poem and much more of Baraka’s writing in his book “Digging: The Afro-American Soul of American Classical Music.”

I LOVE MUSIC (for John Coltrane)

“I want to be a force for real good.
In other words, I know that there are bad forces,
forces that bring suffering to others and misery to the world,
but I want to be the opposite
force. I want to be the force, which is truly
for good.”
–John Coltrane



Trane sd,

A force for real good, Trane. in other words. Feb ’67
By july he was dead.
By july. He said in other words
he wanted to be the opposite
but by July he was dead, but he is, offering
expression a love supreme, afroblue in me singing
it all because of him
can be
screaming beauty
can be
afroblue can be
you leave me breathless
can be


I want to talk about you

my favorite things

like sonny

can be
life itself, fire can be, heat explosion, soul explosion, brain explosion.
can be. can be. can be. aggeeewheeuheeaggeeee. aeeegeheooouaaaa
deep deep deep
expression deep, can be
capitalism dying, can be
all see, aggggeeeeoooo. aggrggrrgeeeoouuuu. full full full can be
empty too.
nightfall by water
round moon over slums
shit in a dropper
soft face under fingertips trembling
can be
can be


Capitalism & Slavery

I’m well into Greg Grandin’s fantastic Empire of Necessity and cannot say enough good things about it. As I’ve been reading, I’ve looked up Grandin’s other writings and stumbled upon his essay “Capitalism and Slavery” in The Nation. It’s a short piece and well worth reading, and it includes this stunning passage that I cannot stop thinking about:

Capitalism is, among other things, a massive process of ego formation, the creation of modern selves, the illusion of individual autonomy, the cultivation of distinction and preference, the idea that individuals had their own moral conscience, based on individual reason and virtue. The wealth created by slavery generalized these ideals of self-creation, allowing more and more people, mostly men, to imagine themselves as autonomous and integral beings, with inherent rights and self-interests not subject to the jurisdiction of others. This process of individuation creates a schism between inner and outer, in which self-interest, self-cultivation, and personal moral authority drive a wedge between seeming and being. My point is that slavery was central to capitalist individuation, to the schism between inner and outer, which I believe accounts for the endurance of racism in American society, its quicksilver nature, as well as for its deniability.