The Esai Poems
The Esai Poems
By Jimmy Santiago Baca
With a foreword by Carolyn Forché
"Esai and I
clap and laugh on the bed, two monkeys
waking in a rain forest canopy
thrilled to my hairy ass
swinging from tree to tree..."
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American Book Award-winning poet Jimmy Santiago Baca endured decades in the penal system before becoming a renowned poet and a father. In these collections of strikingly expressive verse, Baca celebrates parenthood and presents, with brutal honesty, the daily complexities of adult life in the age of 9/11 and the Iraq War. This ex-convict, an essential voice in world poetry, chronicles the changes that envelop him upon the arrival of two of his children, Lucia and Esai. After “twenty-five years in the system, brutal, corrupt, hate-filled, and frenzied with violence . . . beatings, shock-therapy, abandonment, terror, death threats, stabbings,” he refuses to give in to evil and despair.
Recalling the works of other poets who passed through the horrors of extreme experience—Nazim Hikmet, Paul Celan, Joseph Brodsky, Alexander Wat, Otto René Castillo, and a host of others—The Lucia Poems and The Esai Poems give poignant acknowledgement to one generation’s failings and pass on humane advice to the next. Taken together as Breaking Bread with the Darkness, these two collections offer a poetic primer for paternity, and a model for teaching the young history, politics, spirituality, and survival.
About the Author
Jimmy Santiago Baca is an award-winning poet, internationally known for his lyrical, politically charged verse. Of Apache and Chicano ancestry, at the age of twenty-one he was convicted on drug charges and spent six and a half years in prison, where he found his voice as a poet through correspondence with Denise Levertov of Mother Jones. His many books include the poetry collections C-Train and Thirteen Mexicans, Healing Earthquakes, Set This Book on Fire, In the Way of the Sun, Black Mesa Poems, Poems Taken from My Yard, and What's Happening; a memoir, A Place to Stand; a collection of stories and essays, Working in the Dark; a play, Los tres hijos de Julia; a screenplay, for the film Blood In Blood Out; and the novel A Glass of Water. He has published three ebooks with Restless Books: The Face and two Breaking Bread with the Darkness poetry volumes.
Baca is the winner of the Pushcart Prize, the American Book Award, the International Hispanic Heritage Award, and, for his memoir A Place to Stand, the prestigious International Award. Baca has devoted his post-prison life to writing and teaching others who are overcoming hardship. His themes include American Southwest barrios, addiction, injustice, education, community, love, and cultural difference. He has conducted hundreds of writing workshops in prisons, community centers, libraries, and universities throughout the country. More information is available at his website.