College of Western Idaho (CWI) is excited to welcome renowned poet, Jimmy Santiago Baca, to campus virtually as part of the Writers and Words Series for a workshop and reading Tuesday, Oct. 27.
During Spring 2020 semester, CWI graduate, Travis Hill, contacted Baca via Twitter to request an interview for a presentation he was giving on the poet in his English 241 – Creative Writing Poetry class. Baca responded, and the two developed a relationship. Hill encouraged Baca to contact his professor, Abby Wolford, to plan a visit to CWI.
“If you are ever in Idaho, I am sure CWI would love to have you do a reading, a Q&A, whatever,” Hill wrote to Baca.
At the beginning of March this year, Baca indeed reached out to Wolford to arrange a reading and workshop for students for the upcoming fall semester – then COVID-19 happened, and travel ground to a halt.
“I hated to see this reading not happen,” said Wolford. “Nearly all of us in the English department teach his poetry. What a fantastic opportunity for students to be able to work with Jimmy Santiago Baca – so, we moved it online.”
Moving the workshop and reading online, as Zoom webinars, opened up a lot of possibilities and a lot more seats – 500 to be exact! Because of this, the reading is open to the entire community with a special invitation to CWI students, faculty, and staff to attend the workshop portion of the webinar.
Baca first began writing poetry while incarcerated as a young man after being convicted of drug possession. He served six and a half years in prison, three of them in isolation. Baca had been homeless since the age of thirteen and therefore had never had the opportunity to be educated. While in prison, he taught himself to read and write and began writing poetry.
“We often work with College of Idaho to bring in poets,” said Wolford. “Working together has allowed us to bring in many well-known poets in the past. College of Idaho professor and poet, Diane Raptosh, specifically teaches a class on writing in the prison system and will be bringing many of her own students to the event.”
Baca’s first book was published in 1979. He has since written numerous books of poetry, a memoir, novels, and screenplays. He has four books coming out in the next three years. In addition to the American Book Award, Baca is a recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature. A documentary on Baca’s life, A Place to Stand, is available in the Kanopy database in the CWI Library.
The workshop portion of the webinar, which begins at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 27, is limited to CWI students, faculty, and staff. To reserve a seat, please contact Abby Wolford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The reading, which begins at 6 p.m., is free and open to the public. Registration to reserve your seat on the webinar is required.