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During his Beat period, when he was known as LeRoi Jones, Baraka lived in New York’s Greenwich Village and Lower East Side, where he published important little magazines such as Yugen and Floating Bear and socialized with such bohemian figures as [Allen] Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and Gilbert Sorrentino. He was greatly influenced by the white avant-garde: Charles Olson, O’Hara, and Ginsberg, in particular, shaped his conception of a poem as being exploratory and open in form. Donald Allen records in The New American Poetry: 1945-1960 Baraka’s Beat-period views on form: "there must not be any preconceived notion or design for what a poem ought to be. ‘Who knows what a poem ought to sound like? Until it’s thar’ say Charles Olson . . . & I follow closely with that. I’m not interested in writing sonnets, sestinas or anything . . . only poems."


From the "Introduction," to The LeRoi Jones/ Amiri Baraka Reader. Copyright © 1991 by William J. Harris