Review of Immigrants In Our Own Land

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Author: Ron Arias
Editor: David M. Galens
Date: 2003
From: Poetry Criticism(Vol. 41)
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Book review; Critical essay
Length: 929 words

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[(review date 1982) In the following review of Baca's first poetic collection, Arias surveys the "gifted" poet's autobiographical journeys of discovery, his essay-like observational pieces, and scattered protest verses.]

A poet named Jimmy Santiago Baca is running around a prison track field when he stops to look at a chain gang pulling weeds by the prison preacher's house. It's hot and in the distance away from the prison is a nearby town courthouse. In the shade, a hard-eyed preacher, sipping tea, watches the men work.

Suddenly Baca's thoughts explode. Why don't the men tear down the courthouse? Why don't they burn the preacher's house? Why don't they eliminate him, that "lazy glob of pulpish meat"?

Of course, nothing happens, Baca's eyes and thoughts clear, and he ends his poem--"On a September Day"--by running another lap, his fist clenched, "trying to run the ache out of my heart."

Typical jailhouse rage and frustration, you might say. However, for Baca such an obvious peek into the furnace of his anger is quite rare. Most of the 37 poems in Immigrants In Our Own Land, his first published collection, focus on other emotions, other visions. The comfort of a routine workday, for example, leads Baca to list all the image details of a road gang's chores except memories and "things we never talk about."

Or in the poem "In My Land," which...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420044295