Amiri Baraka, author of the American Book Award-winning Digging and over 40 other books of essays, poems, drama, and criticism, spoke with albuquerqueARTS magazine about conspiracy theories, the alchemy of poetry and music, and creating art in an imperialist context. On November 6, Baraka will collaborate with Cecil Taylor for the keynote performance of SHOUT-OUT: A Festival of Rhythm & Rhyme, presented in partnership with STREET ARTS: A Celebration of Hip Hop Culture & Free Expression.

When asked to respond to critics who have dismissed Baraka as overly political, and a “conspiracy theorist,” he points out that great poets have always been political—Walt Whitman wrote in support of Lincoln, and Charles Olson advocated for Roosevelt. “You have to be in the bad and in the good,” he says. “You have to support one and try to kill the other. … Because the bad has a lot of power, a lot of strength. People always ask me, ‘Do you believe in conspiracy theories?’ I said, ‘No, but evil is very well connected!'”

Visit albuquerqueARTS to read the entire interview with Amiri Baraka.