By Jimmy Santiago Baca
"Brimming with intolerable rapture, I almost killed myself many, many times. I wasn’t trying to; my love for life just kept spilling me over boundaries into places from which some people don’t come back. Hardly restricted by social convention, I hurt myself by being so rambunctious and romantic."
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How much of our past does our face betray? What future fortune can you read in the lines and skin? What trace is left by other lips and fingers and fists? In this beautiful, boisterous account, by turns soul-searching and erotic, acclaimed Chicano and Native American poet Jimmy Santiago Baca reveals the story of his life as told through his face. An orphan, a runaway, and an inmate in a maximum-security prison before he became a world-renowned writer, Baca’s life has been touched with rapture and despair, passion and purgatory. “In my eagerness to thrust forth and excel in life,” Baca writes, “I found fame in all the wrong places.”
Presented by Restless Books as part of an ongoing series of succinct essays featuring some of the world’s most distinctive voices, this installment of The Face is Baca’s meditation on the different faces we show the world, and the ways in which the world marks us with its joys and sorrows. With echoes of Walt Whitman and Pablo Neruda, Baca speaks for a people alienated by history, in search of their own recognizable faces. The Face is the record of a lasting quest for self-recognition by one of our most distinguished poets.
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.