Jimmy Santiago Baca

Poet Jimmy Santiago Baca has redefined the power of language. Born in New, Mexico and abandoned at a young age lived a troubled childhood often running away and eventually living on the street. The semi-autobiographical poem “El Gato” recollects his youth, “Beat purple at nine, wood-paddle whizzing butt bullet stings. El Gato touched washcloth to welted bruises on thighs, legs, back, winced under the shower nozzle, cursing life. His heart the severed head of an outlaw pickled in a jar of liquor and drugs to numb the hurt.” He was won numerous awards for his writting, which call for social action, depicting sadness, addiction, and the marginalized in society. He went to prison at 21 for drug charges, where he learned to read and write. His works embody his struggles and sorrow at a young age; he stated “In the Fifties, Chicanos began to search in the darkness for the light that defines their identity. I inherited that journey into darkness." (Summerford 1). His first audience was inmates in his prison where Baca’s poetry took root. His voice is inspirational, realistic, and characterized by his inner hatred and feeling of emptiness. He has conducted workshops both in prison and in universities for over 30 years now. He also founded a non-profit organization Cedar Tree which offers help to prisoners, ex-prisoners, and at-risk youth who come from struggling communities. In an article “Jimmy Santiago Baca appearing for Poetry GSO event” states, “He spends much of his time and money offering writing projects in prisons and high schools.” (Summerford 1). He reads to hundreds of prisoners every year, and this year he will read his poetry at, "El Dia de los Ninos, El Dia de los Libros" (Day of the Child, Day of the Book). He is a powerful figure both as a poet, as well as philanthropist. Baca’s poetry style is passionate; he looks the reader in the eye while one sees the world through his eyes.

Works Cited: Summerford, Steve. "Jimmy Santiago Baca appearing for Poetry GSO event" news record, April 18, 2010