Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jimmy Santiago Baca's "Lost Voices"


Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Lost Voices Documentary


I’ve been thinking hard about the idea of becoming a revolutionary-poet, whatever that means. Primarily it means—I think—that as a poet on has the responsibility quite simply of imagining the impossible. And as a revolutionary one has the responsibility of making the impossible possible. The revolutionary-poet is thus the exact intersection between social consciousness and the aesthetic consciousness of language.

As writers our art is often restricted to official circles: MFA programs, books, workshops, journals, etc. If our art is only circulated among people whom may already believe in our art and our cause then there exists a form of self-imposed censorship. From a revolutionary perspective we must break away from these tendencies; our work must circulate primarily among those populations that are in particular need of conscientization.  

I am thinking now of the work of one of my favorite poets: Jimmy Santiago Baca and his work in correctional facilities. Here is an example of a poet whose beautiful words intersect in his actions. Jimmy doesn’t restrict poetry to another cell: the sterility of the written page. Jimmy takes his poems to the exact center of sterility: the correctional system. 

I’ve found—on YouTube—via the website for the voices behind walls project—another revolutionary project subverting the so called “justice system”(voicesbehindwalls.org)--a twenty minute video titled  “Lost Voices” direct by Jimmy. For those interested in poetry as social practice--or anyone interested in poetry for that matter-- this video is certainly worth the twenty-minute investment. Particularly moving was a poem, “my pen” by a prisoner in that video. (The poem plays at 16:50). In this poem the metaphor of a pen is used to takes us in a hallucinating journey from the incarceration of a person to a rebirth as a poet.

To watch the poem simply play the video here: 









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