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Charter Students To Read Poetry

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A two-week visit by poet Jimmy Santiago Baca to a South Valley charter school will culminate Sunday with poetry readings from the students’ own book.

Students wrote original poetry and composed artwork about their lives and community, even creating a layout for their publication, considered to be “Volume I” with more work to come.

Baca, who often works with students, said “he didn’t do much” in the case of the La Academia de Esperanza poetry.

If you go
What: Poetry readings by Jimmy Santiago Baca and students of La Academia de Esperanza charter school
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Bookworks, 4022 Rio Grande NW

“I went in and I triggered the motivation that was inherent in their own intelligence,” he said Friday.

The charter is targeted for middle and high school students with special needs, and has a partnership with Desert Hills of New Mexico, a mental health facility where nearly half of the 300 students live or receive day treatment.

Baca said that he brought in other poets from El Paso and Los Angeles to help with the class, and gave them “two full weeks of the most amazing education.”

Diane Torres-Velasquez and two other University of New Mexico education faculty members, Tom Keyes and Marjori Krebs, applied for a McCune Foundation Grant to bring Baca to the charter school. One of the faculty members sits on that school’s board of directors.

“These kids, their lives are challenging,” Torres-Velasquez said. “The situations they are coming from are challenging.”

She said she has seen similar work from Baca when he worked with men and women in prison.

“We believe that poetry is liberating,” she said. “When you put your feelings and thoughts and experience into words, you’re giving someone a voice that’s very liberating.”

Baca would ask the students open-ended questions to get them to think before they start writing, she said. Then he would work with them on technique.

Baca said he will be reading some of his own work, which includes books about adolescents “on the edge” and recently completed a book of poetry “The East Side Poems.” He is currently working on poems about his “incredibly beautiful daughter” Lucia.
— This article appeared on page 1 of the West Side Journal