Storm over state laureate's 911 poem

10th January 2003 at 00:00
United States. education chiefs in New Jersey have named controversial poet Amiri Baraka as schools' poet laureate at the same time as lawmakers there are seeking to strip him of the post of offical state poet.

Mr Baraka, formerly Leroi Jones, wrote an ode suggesting that Israel had advance knowledge of the plot to attack the World Trade Center.

Legislators in New Jersey, which borders New York and was home to many 911 victims, will decide Baraka's fate later this month, with most bent on sacking him from the $10,000-a-year post as the state's poet laureate.

The school board in Newark - the state's largest city - voted unanimously on December 18 to anoint Baraka, a respected black community leader, as the official poet of their schools.

Baraka's offending poem, "Somebody Blew Up America" mused:

"Who told the 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers To stay home that day Why did Sharon stay away?"

While the theory has been roundly debunked, he stands by his contention that Israel was forewarned of the terrorist attacks.

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