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Poetry expresses our deepest feelings. It allows us to see beauty. It helps us understand life. In short, poetry rocks—just ask around. One person who would agree with us is Jimmy Santiago Baca. His poem "I Am Offering this Poem" is about how, and why, poetry is so important. Published in 1990, this poem's speaker offers his poem to his beloved like a gift. This speaker is poor: he doesn't have money, but he has some warm, fuzzy, cozy lines to offer to his beloved instead.
What's so interesting about "I Am Offering this Poem," then, is that it's a poem about poetry. The speaker not only talks about love, but he also talks about writing and the relationship between love and writing. Love and poetry, according to him, are like two peas in a pod. Poetry is love, and love is… well, poetry. So what if he can't give his beloved some bling in the form of a two-carat diamond ring? Or if he can't buy her a car, or an iPad? It doesn't matter. Why? Because he can give her a poem instead. Lucky for us, we get to see it too.
We all want material things. We may want fancy cars, or big houses, or just lots and lots of really expensive jewelry. We live in a materialistic world, after all. We're all chasing the American Dream, and for most people the American Dream is made up of dollar, dollar bills y'all.
Jimmy Santiago Baca would beg to differ, though. His poem is so refreshing because it reminds us that there are things in life that are more valuable than material goods. Poetry may not have a monetary value, but it has a spiritual value. It helps us get in touch with ourselves and with those we love. It makes us see and understand the world in new ways. It expands our horizons.
So we should care about "I Am Offering this Poem" because it's a good reminder that there are more important things in life than money. We know that's a cliché, but it's one that's often ignored in this giant rat race we call life. For that reason, we all need to be reminded that love, beauty, and poetry are out there, making the world a better place and making our daily struggles seem that much less important. So pull this poem out the next time you feel down about your wardrobe, or jealous of your friend's latest electronic gadget. Like us, you'll be thanking our man Jimmy for the reminder.
The Official Jimmy Santiago Baca
Learn about what the poet's been up to lately, and explore his works and books on his official website.
All About Jimmy
This webpage delves into Baca's work, providing a nice summary of his important books.
Baca Reads "I Am Offering this Poem"
Here's Baca reading his poem, with some beautiful hills and clouds for a backdrop.
"A Place to Stand"
Check out this extended trailer for a documentary about Baca's life.
Baca in Thought
Here he is, with a look of deep concentration—pretty appropriate for a poet, we'd say.
Here's a photograph of the traditional Navajo dwelling, a "hogan," mentioned in the poem.
Poetry and Yellow Corn
Since the speaker of "I Am Offering this Poem" says his poem is like a bowl of yellow corn, here's a bowl of yellow corn (and a recipe). That looks tasty, doesn't it?
Baca on NPR
Here he talks about his long path from prison to poetry in this interview on NPR's "All Things Considered."
"Carrying the Magic of His People's Heart"
Baca talks about being a poet, his outreach efforts to youth and schools, and the barrio in this interview.
Immigrants in Our Own Land & Selected Early Poems
This is the collection of poetry in which "I Am Offering this Poem" appears.
Ends of Assimilation: The Formation of Chicano Literature
This book on the history of Chicano literature includes a section on Jimmy Santiago Baca's work.
"Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry"
Jimmy Santiago Baca makes on appearance on this show in 2003.
"Blood In, Blood Out"
This 1993 feature film is based on the life of Jimmy Santiago Baca.