LETTERS &

TESTIMONIALS

Jimmy continues to inspire people wherever he goes, as they discover his story thru his poems and books, and realize they are not alone. They realize that someone else has gone through the fire, and survived. He says "always listen to your heart", and after hearing him speak, or reading his writings, you will want to.

Jimmy you inspired so many people today, including me. It was life-changing for many of us. Thank you for making the time and for signing books and taking pictures. This is the most well attended event our group has held yet and I think it will challenge others to “make it happen” like we did.

 

 

Gracias & take care!

 

Christine Rocha
Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico
Community Outreach Specialist II

Christine Rocha

Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico

I read your book, "A Place To Stand". I am a college student in Santa Ana and I am so glad our class got to read this book! It inspires me so much to do much better. I am studying to become a teacher and I go tutor at a high school and I tell the students about your book because I know it will inspire them too! You have given me that belief I need to continue going to school. Thank you! 

 

Ana C 

Ana C 

Student in Santa Ana

My name is Enrique A. I am 20 year old from Washington. I am writing you today because I recently finished reading your auto-biography "A Place to Stand". It was truely an inspiration. Sometimes I forget that this Earth is full of people who all go thru things, just like myself.

VIEW ENRIQUE'S HANDWRITTEN LETTER

Enrique A.

Washington State

Hello Mr. Baca,

My name is CS. I was incarcerated in a youth prison for juveniles charged as an adult in Pueblo,Colorado (YOS). It is here that I was introduced to your poetry and your books, specifically A Place To Stand. It was a life changer and an eye opener to the possibilities of becoming a writer. I was told I had an amazing writing talent. Thanks to your words I was able to get away from the harsh realities of prison life and for that I am truly grateful. I know your a busy man but I would like to one day have the pleasure of meeting you in person and hopefully getting the help to get back to my writing. I hope to hear from you in the future Mr. Baca.

 

Sincerely,

CS
 

CS

Pueblo, Colorado

That's exactly right, and you were an overwhelming success here in getting people to think and listen to your art. Almost everyone I've spoken with has raved about your vist, from the detention center to the classrooms to the coffee shop to the big public talk. So thanks again, hermano.

 

Nos vemos pronto,

Seth Michelson, M.F.A., Ph.D.
Department of Romance Languages
Washington and Lee University

Seth Michelson, M.F.A., Ph.D.

Lexington, Virginia

Hey man how are you doing you prolly dont remeber me but you came to marshall to talk to us at the juvie home and i wanted you to know that that day u came in and told your storys it hit me hard and since then i have found a passion for reading that i never knew was there and it has helped me turn my life around for the better and im very excited to see your new movie when it comes out it looks great. But i just wanted to tell you THANK YOU!

 

Codie B

30 de agosto de 2014

Codie B

Marshall, Michigan

Jimmy,

 

From one poet to another. First of all let me assure you that I am not a weird stalker...LOL! ;) my name is Kirsten. I teach high school English here at Cienega High School, and I have been writing since I have been able to hold a pen. I also lead a poetry club called "Absom." 

 

I am a huge fan of yours. My favorite poem is "What Kind of Poem is Appropriate?" I came across it on poetrypoetry.com. Well, I love it so much, especially in the raw and naked state in which I found it, so close to the heart and bone from which it exploded - I don't know whether you ever finished and published that one, but I cried every time I heard it, and then I typed it word for word in, putting line breaks where I thought they might possibly go, and I use it for poetry lessons...I hope that is all right with you... 


The reason I am writing, Jimmy, is that I played that clip for my students and, to help them get in touch with imagery and the abstract, I asked them to draw pictures depicting, essentially, whatever word/phrase leapt out at them. I was amazed -- amazed at how gorgeous some of the art they created was, and how much the art showed that their hearts resonated with yours, I thought that sending you some of this beautiful art would...somehow complete an... artistic circuit somehow - in your heart, in theirs, in mine.


My students are enthusiastic about the idea of sending you their pictures, but they are concerned that you will feel weird about it - they don't want you to feel invaded, and they don't want to bring back bad memories for you. Also, the students who are not that skilled want to make sure you know that their less-than-amazing visual art skills are in no way expressing any kind of jaded or negative sentiment about the poem.


If you would like to complete this circuit of the heart, please e mail back a response with the address at which you would like to receive these pictures. I guarantee you will not be disappointed with some of these. Thank you for listening. One day, I will meet you and get your autograph. You are amazing.
        
Sincerely,
Kirsten E. Conrad, M.A.Ed
Cienega High School English Dept.
Member: NCTE
President: Vail Education Association

Kirsten E. Conrad, M.A.Ed

Vail, Arizona

Hello Mr. Baca,

I don't kno if u remember but about 4 years ago u visited charlotte high school in punta gorda florida and a poem of mine was shared to u and u came out to a juvenile program where we were able to visit and I talked to u. I was given your books to borrow from a teacher and a place to stand was one of my favorite books. I still write poetry and I think of your writing everytime I write because u have inspired me a lot. whenever u get this message please feel free to message me back if u have the time. I have questions and wonders that I know u would be the most help with. thank you for coming out to see me tht day it was a great honor. and I hope to hear form u soon.
 

Letter from a fan

Punta Gorda

I wanted to just give testimony to the kind of impact that Mr. Baca has had on me and my teaching practice. I am an English teacher at Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado. I came across Jimmy Baca's memoir A Place to Stand 15 years ago just after it was published. I was toiling away in graduate school and searching in earnest for some fire. The book found me when nothing else would have done. In it I found a human being who stridently towed the line that, as Jim Harrison puts it, "a body is much more than its collective wounds." The book profoundly changed my thinking about reading, writing and human experience. His story just resonated seismically with me. Entering the penitentiary as a functionally illiterate man and leaving as a published poet is, simply put, staggering. Jimmy has conducted writing workshops in penitentiaries both as an inmate and as a free man. His work can only do good things for the incarcerated men and women currently serving time in the federal prison system. Jimmy visited our school in the spring of 2016 and captivated during two packed workshops for our seniors. He provided fire. 

 

I have copied both Daniel Glick and Jimmy Baca on this email. I am hoping that you will reach out and listen to their story. Daniel made a documentary about A Place to Standand it has enjoyed notable success nationally. The hope is to use the film as part of a larger effort to bring reading and writing to those individuals serving time in both state and federal institutions. If there is anything that I can do to help further their already exhaustive endeavor, I will. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to be in touch. I do hope to hear from you. In fact, nothing would make me happier.

 

Take good care!

 

Warmly,

 

Jaime Carlos Rodrigues

English Teacher

Fairview High School

Jaime Carlos Rodriques

Boulder, Colorado

Dear Mr. Baca:

I started reading "A Place to Stand" day before yesterday...I couldn't put it down so needless to say, I finished it within 18 hours. Never have I been so moved by the written word. I want to write down all the feelings I have been "holding in" for the past 46 years of my 58 years on this planet. My heart is full, my spirit is over flowing and I will begin my writing today, in honor of our blood line (Apache/Yaqui), in honor of your shared experience and more than anything, in honor of my late father, who was a brilliant man torn to pieces by WWII and alcoholism.

 

With great respect & adoration,

Magdalena R

Magdalena R

Good morning,

Just wanted to share a journal entry from one of my students about Poetry Day.  We've been researching Baca's life story and reading some of his poems in preparation.  Attending Poetry Day and writing a journal entry was one class option for my students this week. This is written by a non-traditional student whose hopelessness came out in sarcasm throughout most of the semester:

 



"I really enjoyed the seminar today I heard other people complaining that he was nothing but a thug wich made me enjoy it even more. Even though I was in the marines I had a harable time while I was in mainly because I really dint want be a cook and I kept getting stuck in the kitchen no matter how many schools I went to to get different jobs Then I went to aphganastan war is harable any way but they then decided that I dint have to cook any more then my girl friend died then my grand father died I couldnt leave for either one I couldnt get ahold of anyone from home all I new was that a plane had gone down in PA so I thought my hole family was dead. I really lost it and from there things just got worse I formed several bad drug habbits and actually became one of those people that you see downtown begging for money not for food but for drugs at this point my hole family had disowned me and I was stuck so I got in some trouble wound up in the va hospital in rehab got my shit together and now Im tring to go to school I have a serious interest in poetry and english and hearing his storie made me want to continue all the more like there is really light at the end of the tunnel even for somone who has made all the wrong choices that they posibly could like him too Im part american indian and I have belonged to gangs I have done some god awful things in my life but the feeling of hope really came acroos me while hearing his story mabe I could get somwear ya know!!!!

"Jim, thank you for arranging for Jimmy Santiago Baca to be the guest speaker at Poetry Day."

Pamela A. Bradley, Ed.D. (candidate)
Assistant Professor of Reading


Northampton Community College


pbradley@northampton.edu


610-861-4181


Pamela A. Bradley, Ed.D.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Dear Mr. Baca: 

 

I started reading "A Place to Stand" day before yesterday...I couldn't put it down so needless to say, I finished it within 18 hours. Never have I been so moved by the written word.  I want to write down all the feelings I have been "holding in" for the past 46 years of my 58 years on this planet.

Thank you, Jimmy! I am still collecting letters from my automotive students about their impressions of your poems. (There's at least one that will make you cry.) Your presentation at NCC last week was so wonderfully personal and inclusive...everybody left feeling like they had made a friend. I do hope you are feeling better and back in the rhythm of your work. My automotive students have now demanded to see "Blood In, Blood Out," and of course I can't disappoint them...they have for the first time realized that they can "understand" poetry and relate to it. One guy said that he always thought poetry was "only for girls and rich people!" They are all "Googling" you and wondering about your life.

I have always felt the tug to do something for people in the prisons, but have not felt the required urgency until now. I have found that Lehigh University does a student/prisoner writing program at Northampton County Prison which even includes training sessions for students to be prepared for what they will find in the prison. This program is limited to student teachers, however, in a credit course. There is nothing yet in place in Lehigh County Prison, but NCC does have a literacy program that touches base with the prison. I am going to find out more about that relationship and see if I can't get involved with tutoring in reading and writing for anyone who needs/wants it behind those prison walls. So many of the students at NCC have a "prison past" and they are very ashamed of it; although we have support classes ("developmental" classes) in place to help those who need a boost before they begin regular college classes, I think there are many who need the "boost" in confidence and self-esteem even BEFORE they are out of prison to even begin thinking that they could ever go to college themselves.

You are a man of many dimensions; I just discovered that you had done a writing workshop for steelworkers at the Indiana plant. I also teach a course here at NCC called "The American Work Experience" for the Automotive students, and one of the bigger units is, of course, about the rise and fall of the Bethlehem Steel. I come from three generations of steelworkers and I can tell you that there were many tears from those steel-hardened men on the day of the last pour, and many of them were and still remain psychologically broken. Their identity, their pride, their legacy has been taken from them and there is nowhere else for them to go to re-establish that kind of bonding and masculine energy that they had found to be so reliable and comforting down at the Steel Mills. Although there have been books published by reporters who have interviewed many different kinds of steelworkers, your volume of stories is unique because it showcases the voices of the steelworkers themselves without the filter of an "outsider." There is a kind of music to a steelworker's story-telling; I can't even describe it.

I have written about the "gentrification" of "vernacular" spaces--the spaces in the town once worked and lived on by the people, that are being turned into little high-end boutiques and condos. If there had been time when you were visiting us, I would have loved to have driven you around the grounds of what is left of the Bethlehem Steel for you to see how Bethlehem has transformed this industrial behemoth into a party plaza, complete with pink lights softly shining up along the monsterous, black blast furnaces. It is a deep insult to the steelworkers who toiled in the blaze of roaring fires and molten steel for those stacks to be tricked out like a party backdrop. "The City" is using the space to support the arts in Bethlehem (which is good), but of course the prices of everything from beer to movie tickets is so high that the residents (who are ex-steelworkers or families of steelworkers) can't afford to participate in any of the upper-end events that happen down at that plaza which was once THEIR TURF!

City developers are going to put in a mall eventually, but of course they will only sell souvenir trinkets and status merchandise to tourists; there will not be a spool of thread or a box of band-aids to be had to serve the common people's needs in the neighborhood. Most of the people on the South Side of Bethlehem are Hispanic and don't have cars--they are the people that city engineers always "forget" in their redevelopment plans. There are churches of every nationality on each block of the South Side, but they have all now closed and have been made into condos. There is no mark or remembrance of any kind of the immigrants--the Polish, the Slovaks, the Irish, the Windish, the Puerto Ricans, the Italians, etc. who lived and died down at that steel plant, breathing toxic metallic dust and enduring temperatures in excess of 1,200 degrees, in both winter and summer, sometimes for 18-hour shifts. My own uncle was killed in a blast furnace explosion in the 60's. He was baptized, confirmed, married, and buried from SS. Cyril and Methodius church (Slovak), but there is no recognition by city planners of the blood, sweat, and tears that happened on "the Hill" and the human drama that happened in those churches and in those dark, gigantic buildings of the Steel Plant.

Thus, I was very touched to find that you saw and recognized the heroism and guts of those steelworkers, that you saw the need for them to express who they were as unique craftsmen who gave their all to be the best at what they did--and got nothing in return. Thank you, on behalf of all the steelworkers who have not yet been heard; I have gone down to the Union Hall and asked some of the "old timers" to come speak to my automotives about what it was like to work the open hearth and to do "the dance" that every steelworker had to learn just to stay alive from day to day. I am hoping I will have some success there because these students are so young and do not know what it means to work until you are required to go past what a human body was meant to endure. And then come back and do it again the next day and for the next for the next 40 years. These are the forgotten heroes in our midst.


Thank you for letting me ramble; I feel that I have so much to say to you and to learn from you. God Bless you and your family, Jimmy. You are touching so many people in so many different ways; surely this was in God's plan for you.

Sincerely,
Eileen Finelli

English Prof. at NCC

Eileen M Finelli

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Dear Jimmy,

I dont know if you remember me sir but today you gave a speech at UNM taos and i have to say thank you senor. I was the 16 year old guy in the classroom. I personally thank you for opening my eyes a little bit more as far as finding myself as a person. Your speech gave me so much self confidence and i have a goal right now to start a book in my spare time. Truthfully the world needs more down to earth people like you to inspire youth and give a better understanding of peace. Your backstory applies for alot of people, mostly chicanos growing up in today's world dealing with struggle, poverty, and other life altering problems. You mentioned a poem your friend wrote on a trip to the ghost ranch, i cant find it and i was wondering if you could send it to me! I'd appreciate it alot. Again thank you Jimmy. I'd say keep doing what your doing but i think your well aware of your impact on this world, have a good day.

 

Sincerly,

Marcos M

Marcos M

Taos, New Mexico

Thank you so much for the speedy response. I know that it will mean a lot to our kids. They were so hopeful after seeing  A Place to Stand.

 

On a personal note, thank you so much for sharing your story. Our kids need to see that they have hope, that they are valuable and worthy of a good life. They need that message from someone who has been there. THANK YOU for being that voice and that person for them. I am greatly indebted to you and plan on using your written works, as well as the movie, in my counseling sessions.

 

Katie McSpadden, LMSW

Mental Health Professional

Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department

Detention Counseling and Psychological Services

602-372-2887 (office) 

mcspaddenk@juvenile.maricopa.gov

Katie McSpadden, LMSW

Phoenix, Arizona

Thanks, Jimmy!

 

And thank, too, for the books. The kids are eager to read them. Just think of the strength and joy you'll be giving them in their cells--it's such a gift!

 

Un abrazo,

 

Seth Michelson, M.F.A., Ph.D.

Department of Romance Languages
Washington and Lee University

Seth Michelson, M.F.A., Ph.D.

Lexington, Virginia

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