Jimmy Santiago Baca


Jimmy Santiago Baca

Jimmy Santiago Baca has won the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, the National Poetry Award, two Southwest Book Awards, and the International Hispanic Heritage Award. His books of poetry include The Esai Poems and Winter Poems Along the Rio Grande. He is also author of a memoir, A Place To Stand.

Born in New Mexico of Chicano and Apache descent, Baca was first raised by his grandmother and was later sent to an orphanage. A runaway at age 13, he was sentenced to five years in a maximum security prison at the age of 21. There he learned to read and write and found his passion for poetry.

Baca sent three of his poems to Denise Levertov, the poetry editor of Mother Jones. The poems were published and became part of Immigrants in Our Own Land, published in 1979, the year he was released from prison. He earned his GED (General Educational Development) test later that same year.

His other books of poetry include Breaking Bread with the Darkness; Healing Earthquakes; C-Train & Thirteen Mexicans; Black Mesa Poems; and Martin & Meditations on the South Valley, for which he won The American Book Award. He also the author of a collection of stories, The Importance of a Piece of Paper, and a novel, A Glass of Water.

Like many Southwestern writers, Jimmy Santiago Baca identifies with the land around him and the myths that are part of his culture. His poems reveal an honest, passionate voice and powerful imagery from the American Southwest landscape, and the chaotic urban landscape woven into a rich lyricism sprinkled with Spanish. His themes include the American Southwest, addiction, injustice, education, community, and love.