Back to Baca

Originally, I’d meant to read Jimmy Santiago Baca’s The Lucia Poems over the Thanksgiving break, but it was only yesterday that I got a chance to settle myself into this collection of poetry, a companion volume to The Esai Poems, which I reviewed back in November. Each of these books carries the subtitle Breaking Bread with Darkness, which captures the wrestling Baca is doing in these poems: engaging in the day-to-day business of child-rearing and work (Breaking Bread) while simultaneously observing and responding to events in the world around him (Darkness).

Lucia is six years younger than her brother Esai, so these poems deal with more recent events (the Gulf oil spill, the hurricane in Haiti) as well on-going events treated in the earlier book (the war on terror, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict).

Again, Baca’s poetry is at its best when he balances the security and love of home with the uncertainty and danger of the broader world. He tells Lucia “I believe your laughter is the truest form of democracy/that you can spread peace through the hearts/of Haitians destroyed by the hurricane,/[…] Lucia, you know that a day in the park/petting stray dogs/is worthier than a visit to the White House/or an appearance on Oprah.”

While the book can’t solve the challenges we face, it offers a way of living with them without accepting them, fighting them without being conquered by them. Whether or not you’re a parent, this is a book that, like The Esai Poems, can see you constructively through hard times.

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