Working in the Dark: Reflections of a Poet of the Barrio

Jimmy Santiago Baca, Author, Adan Hernandez, Illustrator Red Crane Books $17.95 (182p) ISBN 978-1-878610-08-9
The story revealed in these mid-life recollections by Chicano poet Baca is absorbing: an orphan child in a New Mexican city or town name not given/MM barrio, poorly schooled, immersed in drugs and petty crime, he only discovered the power of language as a convict, on reading Neruda and Paz: ``Their language was the magic that could liberate me from myself, transform me into another person, transport me to other places far away.'' This volume is less an autobiography than a romantic paean, taking form as a series of essays, to the redemptive, ecstatic capabilities of poetry. Baca sees his vocation in transcendental terms: ``I became one with the air and sky, the dirt and the iron and the concrete''; he regards himself as a voice for the poor and oppressed in America. As a self-ordained spokesperson for Chicanos, he is at his best when evoking barrio culture: his stately grandmother, the village cantinas and the quiet solidarity of Mexican workers. The book finally disappoints, however; too many reflections are self-indulgent, gratuitously profane, incoherent or simply lost in torturous metaphors. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 07/29/1991
Release date: 08/01/1991
Paperback - 182 pages - 978-1-878610-47-8
Paperback - 168 pages - 978-0-89013-515-0
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