This essay examines Amiri Baraka's improvisatory, always changing commitment to literary and performative formal innovation in the service of his radical politics. It charts the coupling of romantic longing with radical political prescription in Baraka's career and suggests a reading of his poem “Nightmare Bush'it Whirl” as a corrective to recent trends in neopragmatist approaches to Baraka studies. As a recording, “Nightmare” interpolates Stevie Wonder's “All I Do” and conflates romantic longing with a catalog of various defeats and anticipated victories in the international socialist and Black radical movement. This essay presents an immanent critique of Richard Poirier's categories as it applies to recent scholarship on Baraka's poetics, including Andrew Epstein's book-length study Beautiful Enemies: Friendship and Postwar American Poetry. It attempts to theorize a critical encounter between Poirier and Baraka by offering up a reading of Poirier's mention of Baraka in the pages of Partisan Review, and it applies Poirier's critical categories to a sampling of Baraka's literary production.

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