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 Author: crow
PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:24 pm 
New Mexican poet Jimmy Santiago Baca will read from his work in Light Hall Auditorium at Western New Mexico University (1000 W. College Ave.) at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, 2018.

Baca will also do a reading at the Grant County Detention Center on Friday, March 2, and those who attend the talk on campus can purchase one of Baca’s books for an inmate at the jail.

“Mr. Baca is an inspiration not only to our university and the community but also to everyone. A harsh beginning in life does not have to define who you are and what you can become. It’s rare to see someone who celebrates life more than Mr. Baca through his contribution to education and social justice. He is an example for us to follow,” said Dr. Wen-chi Chen, Chair of the Behavioral Sciences Department, which is co-sponsoring Baca’s visit along with the Humanities Department.

Baca first began writing poetry as a young man in prison. At age 21, he’d been convicted on charges of drug possession and spent four of his six years in prison isolated, teaching himself to read and write.

“I always had thought reading a waste of time, that nothing could be gained by it. Even as I tried to convince myself that I was merely curious, I became so absorbed in how the sounds created music in me and happiness, I forgot where I was. Memories began to quiver in me, glowing with a strange but familiar intimacy in which I found refuge,” Baca wrote in “Lock and Key.” “Days later, with a stub pencil whittled sharp with my teeth, I propped a Red Chief notebook on my knees and wrote my first words. Suddenly, through language, through writing, my grief and joy could be shared with anyone who would listen…. Through language I was free.”

A fellow inmate convinced him to submit his poems to “Mother Jones,” then edited by Denise Levertov, who printed Baca’s poems and later helped him find a publisher for his first book.

“Immigrants in Our Own Land,” Baca’s first major collection, was highly praised. In 1987, his semi-autobiographical novel in verse, “Martin and Meditations on the South Valley,” received the American Book Award for poetry, bringing Baca international acclaim. That same year, he received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Most recently, Baca won the International Award for his memoir, “A Place to Stand,” which was made into a documentary.

New Mexican poet Jimmy Santiago Baca is pictured at a speaking event similar to the one in Western New Mexico University’s Light Hall Auditorium on Thursday, March 1, 2018.

For 125 years, Western New Mexico University has served the people in its region as a comprehensive, rural, public body. As a Hispanic-Serving Institution and the state’s only public Applied Liberal Arts and Sciences university, WNMU is committed to developing cross-cultural opportunities that encourage people to explore new experiences. WNMU’s student body represents every segment of southwest New Mexico’s diverse population.

Jennifer Olson
Phone: 575.538.6353

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