Dear Jimmy Santiago Baca:
Hello from Youth Shelters. It has been too long since I said hello and I wanted to write you a quick note today to say hello, let you know that I keep reading and re-reading your stuff and keep becoming inspired. We keep circulating your books and the books you donated last late summer to the kids and they love it. Our Civic Justice Program is reading A Place to Stand out loud to each others. It is great. We have some great kids in that program. I know you would love them....
You have been a great inspiration to fight for all that matters: place, the earth, culture, sanity and beauty ....
I want to tell you how many of us here you have inspired to follow that clear heart inside us and to tell you that working with you last year was a highlight of my time, and many others....
I will keep reading and circulating your works and keep a look out for your readings and presentations so that I might be able to meet up with you again and hear more cool and graceful stories.
I wish you all the best and more,
I met you at the Boothbay Harbor Literacy Retreat last summer and was impressed with your candor and honest appraisal of art and humanity.
I had two of my students present, by their own choice, on your poem just this morning. They selected "I am Offering This Poem" after seeing you on YouTube. Both are brilliant and strong Latinas who are heading off to top schools next year. One has been accepted at USC, Stanford, and a host of others, the other to several other UC and Cal State schools. Both grew up in the barrios of East LA and have moved to our outlying community in the last several years.
I attached a photo of a painting they created to mirror your poem and your statement that "literature expresses our dreams as frauds and forces us to see the irony of reality." The weaved your quote through their presentation, artwork, and critique of your poem, after beginning with reading your poem in Spanish and then in English. It was a powerful moment in class.
I do this work because I want to be part of the future and have an impact on the world. Unlike most attendees at that conference last summer, my students are nothing like theirs. Mine are diverse, largely Hispanic, from struggling families. I am nothing like them--I am white, was privately educated, privileged, etc., but I teach and tell them that they are the hope of their ancestors and art is one of our greatest reflections of that hope.
Upon hearing of Adrienne Rich's death earlier this week, I am sorry that I never told her how inspirational she was to me--telling me at a book signing when I was just 15 to "read poetry slowly--let it melt into you"--and driving me to a career of melting words into my students for the past 15 years.
Thank you for melting your words into my students--they are better for it.
David F. Cain
Mr. Baca, Jimmy,
Hey, I hope you’re well. You may or may not remember me. My name is Michael. I’m in prison here in Las Cruces, NM. You and my mom exchanged emails when I was going to court in ‘03. They took a little time from me--you two discussed that.
Through my mother you sent me some advice. You said, “my advice to Mike is take his life in his own hands and don’t let them stop him from writing… and becoming someone he is proud of in his own heart.” I have the printout, I read it often and show it to my brothers. I took that advice and I’ve done my best to become a good human being and a solid homeboy at the same time. As for my writing, I continued. And I’ve been gifted throughout the years by good people who have shared their words with me, especially in a recent writing class I have taken part in. I gathered our work and we would be honored to share them with you. We hope you have the time to help us out a little bit.
Whatever the case may be, I would like to tell you that I have enjoyed many of your poems and other writings. I read a lot but not often for enjoyment. Your work inspires me. And sometimes my own poetry has allowed me to reclaim some measure of my own humanity. Since I was in Springer I have been reading your books. I also rap and my rhymes and poems are like letters to people important to me. I’ve written to Nezahualcoyotl, Zapata, 2Pac, and you, among others. I’m saying this to express how I count you with my icons. Thank you for your words then and your time now.
Michael “Spook” Armendariz
Michele Serros Published January 27, 2012 Fox News Latino
When my boss casually asked if there were any books of poetry I could recommend, I suggested Jimmy Santiago Baca’s newest book at the time, "The C Train and 13 Mexicans."
“Thirteen Mexicans?” a co-worker sitting nearby quipped. “Sounds like a family trip to K-mart.” Light laughter from both my boss and a few other colleagues followed.
Normally, as a Latina (Mexican American, to be precise) and UCLA graduate (with a degree in Chicana/o Studies) you bet I’d have a little something to retort toward a comment that many might find inappropriate, especially in the workplace. However, I just smiled. “Uh, yeah. Very funny, guys.”
Yes, in this case, my boss and my co-workers were guys, white guys, and our place of employment? The Writers Room at Warner Brothers Studios, to be more precise. My position? A staff writer for The George Lopez Show. Read more:
...got thru the first day. The first class at ten in the morning went very well, in fact, we went over the two hours by fifteen minutes. Some said it surpassed their expectations. It's funny because I really was nervous about doing this class. Cindy Bacino from ICD told me to just remember Jimmy Baca. He writes from the heart and so do you. I'm tellin' ya... you are an inspration for many people.
The second class started at three-thirty... another two hours. I really wasn't satisfied with that class. It was okay, but, man, I was tired. Early raising is not a habit of mine... especially since I retired. I'm usually up till two or three, so the night before I forced myself to go to bed early...twelve-thirty. I was back up at two. I finally fell back to sleep and got up at six. By the time the afternoon class came around, lack of sleep caught up with me. Anywho, in the second class I found myself at a loss of words a few times. I ended up searching for words. No matter. I'm going to finish these classes and do my best. I just want everyone to leave this class with inspiration and a little more knowledge about writing. Your DVD was a tremendous help. I tried to emulate you the way you teach. I thought back to my seminary days with Fr. Colomba and later years with Prof. Tinkham from Purdue Ext. Both English professors and great friends who've passed away. I tried to use their methods. I'm doin' whatever it takes to succeed. It's a lot of work, but it's fun. And I guess that's the key.
Okay, Jimmy, thanks again for everything.
"I just purchased your book, The Esai Poems. I've never been much for poetry because I always wanted what I read to be verbose and clear so that I knew I understood what I was reading. But recently a friend gave me a gift certificate for a bookstore so I bought a few books of poetry by Mary Oliver, as she came highly recommended. Suddenly, I was a fan of poetry. Then yesterday I noticed your book on the shelf. I had met you when you read from The Last Stand at Dorothy's Collected Works and decided to see if I liked your poetry. (I no longer live in Santa Fe. The economy and a stalker pushed me right out. So I'm in Texas of all places trying to find a job and pick up the pieces of my life.)
Anyway, on page 10 I read Where the tree had stood. It knocked the wind out of me. I spent most of the hours of the early morning reading from this precious book that I have now shared on facebook, accidentally really, I thought it was going to your personal facebook. Well, it's good advertising.I went to Amazon to write you a review because I do that for fellow authors, but The Esai Poems weren't on it. You can see what I wrote if you go to Jan Marquart's FB page. That's me. Or at least I think so. I've had so many life changes due to my short 6 years in Santa Fe I hardly recognize myself anymore. Santa Fe wasn't very kind to me although I have to say the land was a blessing so I count that as God's gift to make it even. After all, I wrote Voices from the Land on my land in Lamy when an intuitive told me spirits on the land wanted me to record some stories. It took me two years to get up the nerve to take on such a weird task.
So I am reading your poetry and opening up inside myself in ways that make my life feel as if I am reshaping myself. I just love that feeling. As a prolific writer and author you have inspired me to write even deeper. Sometimes I get afraid. I think if I write any deeper I'll disappear. Maybe that's what it's all about.
I noticed that The Esai Poems is book one. I am looking forward to book 2.
Best regards, and if I could say with total humility, as a psychotherapist, you are the true success story our children need to touch."