How Poetry Literally Saved a Life Behind Bars

Read the inspiring story of award-winning poet Jimmy Santiago Baca’s journey from using books for physical self-protection behind bars to winning the Columbus Foundation’s American Book Award and serving as judge for an annual poetry contest for youth in juvenile correctional centers.

Click here to read the NPR story.

Click here to read poems by Jimmy Santiago Baca.

I Am Offering This Poem

by Jimmy Santiago Baca

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give. Keep it like a warm coat,
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in the winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

I love you,

Keep it, treasure it as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or a hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe,

I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and it’s all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
remember,

I love you.