Assembly votes to remove N.J. poet laureate position
State lawmakers voted Tuesday to eliminate the position of poet laureate of New Jersey — an effort that began after Amiri Baraka wrote a poem suggesting Israel had advance knowledge of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The Assembly approved a bill Tuesday that passed the Senate in January. Gov. James E. McGreevey, who cut off the $10,000 annual stipend that goes to the poet laureate after Baraka refused to resign, intends to sign the bill, according to a spokesman.
Abolishing the position was the only way to remove Baraka because the governor and Legislature cannot fire the poet laureate.
Baraka was criticized after reading his 60-stanza poem “Somebody Blew Up America” at a festival last summer. It included the lines: “Who knew the World Trade Center was gonna get bombed/Who told 4,000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers to stay home that day?/Why did Sharon stay away?”
After Tuesday’s vote, Baraka said he would sue the state for violating his First Amendment rights and for slander.