Jimmy Santiago Baca is a New Mexico based poet and writer of Chicano and Apache descent. He held a reading on Mesa Communities College campus in the Theatre to promote his work and to engage with writers and readers. Baca read from several of books including his text A Place to Stand. He also gave impassioned readings from his books, Breaking Bread with the Darkness: Book 1: The Esai Poems, Martín and Meditations on the South Valley: Poems and C-Train and Thirteen Mexicans, among others.
Baca spoke about his time in prison, finding writing, and his experiences making the film Blood In, Blood Out. He also spoke about a number of social issues including immigration, the border walls and Donald Trump’s presidency. Over the course of the reading Baca touched on his backstory and illuminated the audiences with details from his past. Including an anecdote about a Chicano hating skin-head whom Baca wrote a letter for. Baca also talked briefly about running away from home after being abandoned by his parents at two and eventually ending up in and orphanage and then the prison system.
Baca has won a litany of literary awards since his time in prison and has been translated into over 30 languages. Baca has also started a charity called Cedar Tree, Inc. Baca isn’t too big of a celebrity to take out time to visit a local poetry class. The evening before the reading Baca stopped into Josh Rathkamp’s poetry class to talk to and encourage students. Baca discussed the success of his former student Reggie Gains and asked students about their favorite poets. He went on to discuss the importance of engaging with the written word and made special note of several student’s obsessions with Ginsberg.
Baca shared anecdotes about poetry, life, and terrorizing the Gregorian monks that live on his street. Baca discussed how, “poetry makes you grow” and how he has sometimes felt like he was, “On a ship full of dreams and I couldn’t handle the voyage.” He left the class with a discussion about artistic relationships and one-ness of self. Saying that students must become, “friends with loneliness”. All of that loneliness has certainly paid off, Baca has made people a lot of people less lonely with his work, and brightened the semester for a group of young poetry students.