Jimmy Santiago Baca at the Cesar Chavez Public Library (Salinas, CA)

There is nothing greater than when a community comes out in force to hear their poet. Mad props to the staff of the Cesar Chavez Library for getting the word out and making sure that all of Salinas knew that Jimmy Santiago Baca was coming to read.

A crowd of 100+ from every demographic you can think of came out ready and eager for Mr Baca. I was very fortunate to be included as one of the readers for the night and was asked to go up first. Reading from Palimpsest, I shared “The Story of How Pigeon Came to Live in City” and “Palipsest: Ghazal.” Both poems went over pretty well considering my voice was very nervous.

Local poet and journalist Marc Cabrera came through next with two very earnest poems. The first felt like a riff off of Miguel Piñero’s “A Lower East Side Poem” as Cabrera was asking that his ashes be spread over the East Side of Salinas. Cabrera’s attention to detail and sincere love of his East Side home came through loud and clear in his poem and gave me an even greater appreciation of Salinas.

Garland Thompson, Jr; Marc Cabrera; Oscar Bermeo and Jimmy Santiago BacaGarland Thompson closed out the opening poets with some signature pieces done with a bombastic theater style. Garland was one of the event organizers and had been working tirelessly throughout the weekend to make sure that Jimmy could speak at local youth centers and get to catch some of the sights in the Monterey Peninsula. Much props to him for all his hard work.

Jimmy came out to close the night in the role of poet and story teller. Barb and I were talking this morning about how some poets do such an eloquent job at being able to share the details of their lives and the urgency behind their craft. Elders like Al Robles, Wanda Coleman, Anne Waldman, Amiri Baraka, and José Montoya come quickly to mind. This list isn’t all about elder status, I’m thinking about the great talk Junot Diaz gave recently and how only a little of it was him actually reading from the book and so much was the experience of writing the book. Folks like Roger Bonair-Agard, Suheir Hammad, Javier Huerta, Paul D. Miller, and Chad Sweeney are some other writers who can make writing feel alive without resorting to didatic rehashing.

Back to Jimmy, his stories of survival and cultural pride cut straight to the heart of the Salinas residents. He praised them for their hard work but also pushed them to take another step and be able to claim their identities in both familiar and hostile environments. More than anything, Jimmy speaks the straight-up, el vivo y hecho, the real deal, to communities that have been repeatedly lied to. In return for his honesty, the communities gives him respect and attention so that his poems can have an open space to be absorbed.

The selection Jimmy read from his new collection, Rita and Julia, was epic in its scope but remained centered with a clear speaker living and considering the choices the world gives. A very Whitman-esque turn in Baca’s work that extends the long poem form he has embraced since Martín & Meditations on the South Valley and C-Train and Thirteen Mexicans.

For me, it was an incredible treat to hear him read “I Am Offering This Poem.” It’s been a favorite of mine for years and to see him pull out Immigrants in Our Own Land brought out all kinds of fanboy in me. On the critical tip, Jimmy read the poems from his newest collection and first collection with an ease of voice and writing styles (the poet in control of his craft and confident in his text) while sill maintaining a sense of urgency (the poet offering the poem as a point of discussion, an opportunity for dialogue, that the audience may not take so he must relay in his voice and word choice how critical the message is). If you didn’t see him switch books, you might even imagine that he was reading from the same book which, after seeing some writers endlessly read from their old work or clumsily tripping over their own new text (I’ve been guilty of both crimes), is a level of poetic mastery more poets should be trying to reach.

Jimmy Santiago Baca: Partial BibliographyIn the end, it’s all about the transformative power of poetry and how it can affect every life; poetry can get you love, prestige, and acclaim. But poetry can’t do anything if you try to jam it down people’s throats or present it in a laissez faire fashion.

The difference maker? Trust, in your work and in your reader, and faith, in the work and in yourself.

The proof? The life story and rich literary history of Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Jimmy Santiago Baca reads at the Cesar Chavez Public Library

[ETA: Barb’s thoughts on hanging with Jimmy and the Salinas reading.]


Originally uploaded by geminipoet

I am ultra-excited to be a part of Spanic Attack’s 5th year anniversary jam this Sunday in the Bronx!

Urayoán Noel will be hosting the poetry segment (starts at 4:00pm) featuring Edwin Torres, Latasha Diggs, and Oscar Bermeo.

Please spread the word and come on by if you get a chance.

Spanic Attack at Haven Arts Gallery
Sunday July 27th, 3-10pm, Free!

Sudaca: A pejorative term coined in Spain to refer to Latin American migrants, stemming from SUDAmeriCAno (South American). Perhaps related to sudar, from the Latin sud_re, to sweat.

Like Black emcees who claimed the N-word in the 1980s to subvert its racist history, a group of Latin American, Latino and Caribbean artists are flipping the script on the term sudaca.

Through a potent mix of photography, spoken word and nueva canción, “Sudaca Bronx Jam” will explore representations of sudaca, sweat and el Sud, the South.

It will all take place in the steamy South Bronx, at the Haven Arts Gallery’s new patio space, on Sunday, July 27 from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Take the 6 train to 138th Street and Alexander Avenue, the first stop in the Bronx. The address is 50 Bruckner Blvd., Building A (walk south on Alexander to Bruckner).

Also dubbed “Sud-aka-Bronx,” or “Suda-Cabronx!” the latest event in the gallery’s summer matinee series is a summit of sorts, joining urban spoken word performers with singer-songwriters in the nueva canción tradition.

A movement in Latin American music developed in the 1960s in the Southern Cone, nueva canción combined folk music with politicized lyrics.

Featured artist Rafo Ráez, a Lima, Peru-based singer and composer who made his mark in the mid-1990s with his Psych/Prog album “Suicida de 16 y otras canciones,” will make his New York City debut.

Other performers include: Oscar Bermeo, Edwin Torres, Rebio Díaz, LaTasha Diggs, el objeto, Jarana Beat, Los Charlatanes, R-Tronika and LaSovietika. Photographers Jonás Hidalgo, Chris Kralik, Mar Cuervo and Adriana Mateos will exhibit their work.

Each musical artist or group will perform its own set, but they will also collaborate spontaneously, as some visual artists improvise.


Eastlake Sessions III


chapter three- summer heat!

a loft party for the people-
food, film, poetry, song, and a proper dose of booty shakin’ too

7 PM on …

1018 4th Ave
Unit 305
Oakland, CA

(cross street, east 10th-
facing Laney College’s football field,
a five minute walk from Lake Merritt BART)

you and yours are cordially invited
to an evening of arts, culture, and family vibez
as we celebrate summer’s onset
and welcome you to the Town’s newest arts space and event



(Feel free to bring a dish or some drinks, to add to the night’s potluck mix, or simply come through with your own appetite ready …)


(Hosted by Raphael Cohen, of Play In The Margins Press, this portion of the evening’s an opportunity for storytellers of various mediums to share their work. We’ll be featuring several special guest poets to start (DeWayne Dickerson, Aimee Suzara, and Oscar Bermeo), then opening the floor for folks in the space to speak, sing, strum, etc. Whether you’re a seasoned performer on the spoken word and music scene, or whether you’re an emerging artist, sharing your work for one of the first times, come through to test out your material in front of an intimate, supportive audience. Collaboration and experimentation encouraged.)

10 PM- ON & POPPIN’!!!

(DJs Diet and Snacks take over the wheels of steel, bumpin’ a summertime assortment to get you shakin’ your ass. Expect everything from hip-hop to afrobeat, classic funk to deep house. Accompanied by visual installations from DG Gonzalez, photographer extraordinaire. Do yourself a favor, and make sure you’re here by then.)

Free admission!

7 PM on …

1018 4th Ave
Unit 305
Oakland, CA


eastlake sessions 3

Achiote Press Release Party and Reading

Achiote Press will celebrate the release of our Spring issues with a party on Friday, April 25th at the Ethnic Studies Library on the UC Berkeley campus. The event will feature special readings by former Achiote contributors Barbara Jane Reyes (Poeta en San Francisco) Truong Tran (Within The Margin), and Oscar Bermeo (Anywhere Avenue). Maria Tuttle will read from her new Achiote chapbook, Saramé. This chapbook contains an excerpt from Tuttle’s historical novel about the life of a woman in El Paso, Texas during the early 20th century. Gabriela Erandi Rico will read from her contributions to the new Achiote Seeds chapjournal. Javier Huerta, author of Some Clarifications y otras poemas, will perform selections from the other contributors to the journal: Cristina García, Emmy Pérez and Brenda Cárdenas. Poet Oscar Bermeo will emcee the night.

We’ll have food, drinks and music. The event is free, open to the public and we welcome families and children.

When: Friday, April 25th: 6pm-8pm
Where: Ethnic Studies Library, Stephens Hall, UC Berkeley Campus
(see a campus map here: http://www.berkeley.edu/map/)

Sponsored by the Ethnic Studies Graduate Group, Asian American Studies Program, and Chicano Studies Program.