"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

raulsalinas has died

The great Xicano poet, writer and activist Raul Salinas, known as raulsalinas died last night in Austin. I, along with many others are saddened by the loss of this amazing and enduring spirit of a man.

Descanse en pas hermano.



raulsalinas was a longtime fixture at South Austin's La Resistencia Bookstore. He wrote several influential books of Chicano poetry, including "East of the Freeway: Reflections de mi Pueblo," and "Un Trip Through the Mind Jail y Otras Excursions."

His most recent book, "raúl salinas and the Jail Machine: Selected Writings of raúl salinas" was published in 2006 by University of Texas Press.

To learn more about raulsalinas, you can check out his website.

Raul will be greatly missed.

A BIO OF RAUL SALINAS (quoted from the announcement I received this morning)

Raúl Roy “Tapon” Salinas was born in San Antonio, Texas on March 17,
1934. He was raised in Austin, Texas from 1936 to 1956, when he moved to Los
Angeles. In 1957 he was sentenced to prison in Soleded State Prison in
California. Over the span of the next 15 years, Salinas spent 11 years
behind the walls of state and federal penitentiaries. It was during his
incarceration in some of the nation’s most brutal prison systems, that
Salinas’ social and political consciousness were intensified, and so it is
with keen insight into the subhuman conditions of prisons and an inhuman
world that the pinto aesthetics that inform his poetry were formulated.

His prison years were prolific ones, including creative, political, and
legal writings, as well as an abundance of correspondence. In 1963, while in
Huntsville, he began writing a jazz column entitled “The Quarter Note”
which ran consistently for 1-1/2 years. In Leavenworth he played a key role
in founding and producing two important prison journals, Aztlán de
Leavenworth and New Era Prison Magazine, through which his poetry first
circulated and gained recognition within and outside of the walls. As a
spokesperson, ideologue, educator, and jailhouse lawyer of the Prisoner
Rights Movement, Salinas also became an internationalist who saw the
necessity of making alliances with others. This vision continues to inform
his political and poetic practice. Initially published in the inaugural
issue of Aztlán de Leavernworth, “Trip through a Mind Jail” (1970)
became the title piece for a book of poetry published by Editorial Pocho-Che
in 1980.

With the assistance of several professors and students at the University of
Washington - Seattle, Salinas gained early release from Marion Federal
Penitentiary in 1972. As a student at the University of Washington, Salinas
was involved with community empowerment projects and began making alliances
with Native American groups in the Northwest, a relationship that was to
intensify over the next 15 years. Although Salinas writes of his experiences
as a participant in the Native American Movement, it is a dimension of his
life that has received scant attention. In the 22 years since his release
from Marion, Salinas’ involvement with various political movements has
earned him an international reputation as an eloquent spokesperson for
justice. Along the way he has continued to refine and produce his unique
blend of poetry and politics.

Salinas’ literary reputation in Austin earned him recognition as the poet
laureate of the East Side and the title of “maestro” from emerging poets
who seek his advice and a mentor. While his literary work is probably most
widely known for his street aesthetics and sensibility, which document the
interactions, hardships, and intra- and intercultural strife of barrio life
and prison in vernacular, bilingual language, few people have examined the
influence of Jazz in his obra that make him part of the Beat Generation of
poets, musicians, and songwriters. His poetry collections included
dedications, references, and responses to Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac,
Charles Bukowski, Charlie Parker, Herschel Evans, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles
Davis, for example. Academics have primarily classified Salinas as an
important formative poet of the Chicano Movement; yet, while he may have
received initial wide-scale recognition during the era, it would be unfair
to limit a reading of his style, content, and literary influence to the
Movement.

There were many dimensions to Salinas’ literary and political life.
Though, at times, some are perplexed at the multiple foci of Salinas’
life, the different strands of his life perhaps best exemplify what it means
to be mestizo, in a society whose official national culture suppresses
difference: his life’s work is testimony to the uneasy, sometimes violent,
sometimes blessed synthesis of Indigenous, Mexican, African, and
Euro-American cultures. Salinas currently resides in Austin, Texas, were he
is the proprietor of Resistencia Bookstore and Red Salmon Press, located in
South Austin. Arte Público Press reissued Salinas’ classic poetry
collection, Un Trip through the Mind Jail y otras Excursiones (1999), as
part of its Pioneers of Modern U.S. Hispanic Literature Series. He is also
the author of another collection of poetry, East of the Freeway: Reflections
de Mi Pueblo (1994).

Salinas resided in Austin, Texas, were he was the proprietor of Resistencia
Bookstore and Red Salmon Press, located in South Austin. Arte Público Press
reissued Salinas’ classic poetry collection, Un Trip through the Mind Jail
y otras Excursiones (1999), as part of its Pioneers of Modern U.S. Hispanic
Literature Series. He is also the author of another collection of poetry,
East of the Freeway: Reflections de Mi Pueblo (1994).

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