The Impact of Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Poetry on Social Justice and Healing

Jimmy Santiago Baca

Born on this day January 2, 1952, Jimmy Santiago Baca, an acclaimed American poet, has made a significant impact on social justice and healing through his poignant works. Baca’s life experiences, particularly his journey from illiteracy during his time in prison to becoming a celebrated poet and writer, have deeply influenced his works. His poetry not only reflects his personal struggles but also resonates with broader themes of social injustice, marginalization, and the healing power of literature.

Baca’s poetry is a powerful testament to the human spirit’s resilience in the face of adversity. He eloquently portrays the harsh realities faced by marginalized communities, particularly those of Hispanic descent, in his works. His vivid narratives on the struggle for survival, identity, and dignity in a prejudiced society have stirred conversations on social justice. Through his poetry, Baca has shed light on systemic injustices and inequalities and has prompted critical discussions on social reform.

The therapeutic aspect of Baca’s poetry is equally compelling. Baca has often credited writing as a healing force that helped him overcome the traumas of his past. His poetry serves as a beacon of hope for individuals grappling with personal and societal adversities. By sharing his journey of transformation, Baca inspires readers to harness the power of self-expression as a tool for healing and self-discovery.

The impact of Jimmy Santiago Baca’s poetry extends beyond the realm of literature. His powerful verses serve as catalysts for social justice discourse and provide a potent therapeutic tool for individuals seeking solace and healing. His life and works underscore the transformative potential of literature in fostering social change and personal growth.

[Today, running along the river]


Today, running along the river,
                 dead leaves cling
                 to cathedral cottonwood branches,
                 snap in the gusty breeze,
                 give a crisp hiss . . .
A wafer thin wind spades up
loose dust from the path,
and above me,
gray leaves clash soft in towering boughs;
                  that might be heard in the silent yard
                  of a monastery
                  like the sandaled steps of monks
                  praying, walking
                  over the swept yard,
                  walking and praying.

I run, beneath the winter leaves
when right ahead of me at the turn,
                 a plump pheasant
                 white ring neck, gray-black mottled feathers,
                 green phosphorescent head
                          scurries into the dry brush,
                 clashing like rosaries in the sleeves of nuns
                 hurrying to the chapel for evening mass.

                 I jog on. A hawk swoops out
and vanishes into the tree tops toward the river.
                 Black crows.
Clean swept dirt.
Then at the end of the path,
turning, heading north, I worry over the love
I have for this woman. Then I see seven pairs
of mallards burst up in fright at my sudden appearance,
and I think how they mate for life and beyond them,
poised on the ditch bank, with such regal bearing,
                                                                      a blue heron . . .

         It’s then I hear a voice,
         a crystal shining icicle clear voice,
         cold water but made of sound,
         tells me, keep my connection to the spirits strong,
         keep my work spiritual,
         stay connected to the Creator,
         and all my worries will be answered in time.

         Ah, it is a good run . . .

-Jimmy Santiago Baca

Curated by Jennifer

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