New Jersey Eyes Ways To Oust Poet Laureate

New Jersey Eyes Ways To Oust Poet Laureate

New Jersey lawmakers were set this week to review bipartisan bills aimed at ousting the state’s poet laureate, Amiri Baraka, who has been accused of making anti-Semitic remarks in his poem "Somebody Blew Up America." One bill, from Democratic state Senate President Richard Codey, would authorize the state Council for the Humanities to remove a sitting poet laureate. The other bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Peter Inverso, would allow the governor to fire a poet laureate. Both bills would apply to Baraka. A session to review the bills last week was canceled because of snow.

Gov. James McGreevey called for Baraka’s resignation in September after the Newark native read his poem at a state poetry festival. The poem implies that Israel, among other nations, knew in advance of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and warned Israeli workers at the World Trade Center to stay home that day. Baraka has refused to step down or apologize. He repeatedly has denied charges of anti-Semitism and insists his poem is being misinterpreted.

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