Gloria Graham Jimmy Santiago Baca

Jimmy Santiago Baca in 2004. Photo by Gloria Graham. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Jimmy Santiago Baca
Born January 2, 1952 (1952-01-02) (age 68)
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Occupation poet
Nationality USA
Notable work(s) Martin and Meditations on the South Valley
Notable award(s) American Book Award, Pushcart Prize, International Hispanic Heritage Award, International Award.

Jimmy Santiago Baca (born January 2, 1952) is an American poet and prose writer.

Life Edit

Of Apache and Chicano descent, Jimmy Santiago Baca was born in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, in 1952. Abandoned by his parents at the age of two, he lived with one of his grandmothers for several years before being placed in an orphanage. He wound up living on the streets, and at the age of twenty-one he was convicted on charges of drug possession and incarcerated. He served six and a half years in prison, three of them in isolation, and having expressed a desire to go to school (the guards considered this dangerous), he was for a time put in the same area of the prison with the inmates on death row before he was released.[1] During this time, Baca taught himself to read and write, and he began to compose poetry. He sold these poems to fellow inmates in exchange for cigarettes. A fellow inmate convinced him to submit some of his poems to the magazine Mother Jones, then edited by Denise Levertov. Levertov printed Baca's poems and began corresponding with him, eventually finding a publisher for his first book.

Immigrants in Our Own Land, Baca's first major collection, was highly praised. In 1987, his semi-autobiographical minor epic in verse, Martin and Meditations on the South Valley, received the American Book Award for poetry, bringing Baca international acclaim and, in 1989, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature.[2] A self-styled "poet of the people," Baca conducts writing workshops with children and adults at countless elementary, junior high and high schools, colleges, universities, reservations, barrio community centers, white ghettos, housing projects, correctional facilities and prisons from coast to coast.

File:Jimmy baca 2009.jpg

In 2004 Baca started a non-profit organization, Cedar Tree, Inc., that supports these workshops through charitable donations. As well as writing workshops, Cedar Tree has produced two documentary films Clamor en Chino and Moving the River Back Home. The organization employs ex-offenders as interns.[3]

Publications Edit


  • Immigrants in Our Own Land. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1979.
  • Swords of Darkness. San Jose, CA: Mango, 1981.
  • What's Happening. Willimantic, CT: Curbstone Press, 1982.
  • Poems Taken from My Yard. Fulton, MO: Timberline Press, 1986.
  • I Have Been Lost from You Mother Earth. San Francisco: Amni America, 1989.
  • Black Mesa Poems. New York: New Directions, 1989.
  • Immigrants in Our Own Land, and selected early poems. New York: New Directions, 1990.
  • Healing Earthquakes: A love story in poems. New York: Grove, 2001.
  • Set This Book on Fire!. Mena, AR: Cedar Hill Publications, 2001.
  • C-Train (Dream Boy's Story} & Thirteen Mexicans. New York: Grove, 2002.
  • Ancestor. Santa Cruz, CA: Suzanne Thomas, 2004.
  • Winter Poems Along the Rio Grande. New York: New Directions, 2004.
  • Spring Poems Along the Rio Grande. New York: New Directions, 2007.
  • Rita and Julia. San Diego, CA: San Diego City Works Press, 2008.
  • Poemas selectos de Jimmy Santiago Baca = Selected poems of Jimmy Santiago Baca (bilingual). New York: New Directions, 2009.
  • The Esai Poems. Santa Fe, NM: Sherman Asher, 2011.
  • The Lucia Poems. Santa Fe, NM : Sherman Asher, 2012.
  • Singing at the Gates: Selected poems. New York: Grove, 2014.


  • Martin & Meditations on the South Valley (verse novel). New York: New Directions, 1987.
  • The Importance of a Piece of Paper. New York: Grove, 2004.
  • A Glass of Water. New York: Grove, 2009.

Short fictionEdit


  • Working in the Dark: Reflections of a poet of the barrio. Santa Fe, NM: Red Crane, 1992.
  • A Place to Stand: The making of a poet. New York: Grove, 2001.
  • The Power of Books. Tucson, AZ: Tucson-Pima Public Library Southwest Literature Project, 2006.


  • The Heat: Steelworker lives and legends. San Diego, CA: Cedar Hill, 2003.
  • From the Inside Out: Letters to young men, and other writings: Poetry and prose from prison. New York, NY: Student Press Initiative, 2009.

Jimmy Santiago Baca - I Am Offering This Poem

Jimmy Santiago Baca - I Am Offering This Poem

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[4]

See alsoEdit

References Edit

  1. The Progressive Radio Show. Web, Feb. 19, 2009.
  2. Hispanic Heritage Awards for Literature, Hispanic Heritage Foundation. Web, Jan. 11, 2011.
  3. Cedar Tree Inc., Web, Feb. 19, 2009.
  4. Search results = au:Jimmy Santiago Baca, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Apr. 23, 2014.

External linksEdit

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