“I wrote to sublimate my rage, from a place where all hope is gone, from a madness of having been damaged too much, from a silence of killing rage. I wrote to avenge the betrayals of a lifetime, to purge the bitterness of injustice. I wrote with a deep groan of doom in my blood, bewildered and dumbstruck; from an indestructible love of life, to affirm breath and laughter and the abiding innocence of things. I wrote the way I wept, and danced, and made love.”
from Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Doing Time: Twenty-Five Years of Prison Writing
Baca taught himself to read and write when he was a teenager spending five years in a maximum security prison. He emerged from prison a poet.
I had never heard of Baca until I read an excerpt of his in an anthology dedicated to building academic literacy and revealing the connection between reading, identity, and power. Baca’s desire for literacy was sparked when he stole a book at age seventeen from the hospital he worked at. It was a photography book chronicling Chicano history. Baca understood that words would give him a place to stand.
I’m not sure why, but this quote just stirs me.