New Jersey Votes to Abolish Poet Laureate Position

by Staff

On July 1, New Jersey lawmakers approved a bill that will abolish the state's poet laureate position, a process that was initiated by the state Senate in January. The decision came in response to the controversy surrounding current laureate Amiri Baraka's poem, "Somebody Blew Up America," which implies Israel had prior knowledge of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Baraka read the poem at the 2002 Dodge Poetry Festival.

Unable to fire Baraka due to specifications in the laureate's contract, Governor James E. McGreevey initially cut the position's $10,000 stipend after Baraka refused to resign. Baraka responded to the calls for his resignation with the essay, "I Will Not 'Apologize', I Will Not 'Resign'!" The essay was published on the poet's personal Web site (

Baraka now plans to sue the state of New Jersey for slander and the violation of his First Amendment rights.