Through a series of short stanzas, Baca’s speaker addresses an unknown listener. He tells them that they should take “this poem” and regard it as a place of safety and warmth. It is compared through similes and metaphors to warm clothing and a map. The text concludes with the speaker telling the listener to keep this poem in a safe place and go back to it whenever they feel lost and/or need to redirect their lives.
You can read the full poem here.
‘I Am Offering this Poem’ by Jimmy Santiago Baca is a thirty-line poem that is loosely separated into stanzas. These stanzas contain different numbers of lines, ranging from five to nine with each separated by the three-word phrase “I love you”. The lines do follow a specific rhyme scheme but there are scattered instances of rhyme throughout the text. For example, “you” and “through” in the first seven lines and “give” and “live” in the final six lines.
There are also examples of half-rhyme throughout ‘I Am Offering this Poem’. Half rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. For instance, “mature” and “fire” in lines sixteen and twenty-two and Full, or perfect rhyme, can also be found within the text itself, rather than at the end of lines. Examples include “hair” and “wear” in lines eleven and twelve.
Baca makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘I Am Offering this Poem’. There include simile, metaphor, alliteration, repetition, and enjambment. The first two, alliteration and metaphor, are similar. They are kinds of figurative language that make comparisons between two, unlike things. A simile uses “like” or “as” and a metaphor does not.
Within the poem, Baca compares the poem he’s writing to a scarf, cabin, gift, and warm coat.
Alliteration occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “comes” and “cover” within line four and “and all anyone” in line two of the final stanza.
Baca also makes use of repetition or the use and reuse of a specific technique, word, tone or phrase within a poem. In this case, along with a few other instances, repetition appears in the form of a refrain, “I love you” that appears after each stanza.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. Examples include the transitions between lines three and four of the first stanza and two and three of the second.
I am offering this poem to you,since I have nothing else to give.(…)the cold cannot bite through,I love you,
In the first lines of ‘I Am Offering this Poem’ the speaker begins by “offering” the poem to “you”. It is, he says, the only thing he has to give. The title immediately appears in these lines, a fact a reader should take note of. This increases its importance in the larger context of the poem. The poem, or writing in general as a gift/offering should be at the front of a reader’s mind.
Continuing on, Baca uses the simile of a “warm coat” to compare the poem to comfort and safety. It’s going to provide the reader or the intended listener with protection from when “winter comes to cover you”. It is a note, a declaration, and a statement of intent. This becomes all the clearer with the interjections of “I love you” after each stanza.
I have nothing else to give you,(…)over your hair, to tie up around your face,I love you,
The refrain of “I love you” brings the reader into the second stanza which is five lines long. Here, the speaker reiterates another line. He says that he has “nothing else to give you” and therefore, the poem has to symbolize a “pot full of yellow corn”. This metaphor is another directly related to comfort, happiness, and wellbeing. With a “pot full of yellow corn” the intended listener can be warm throughout winter.
The poem is a “scarf” to keep the listener’s head warm. It can be used to wrap around “your” body just as the winter attempts to consume you.
Keep it, treasure this as you wouldif you were lost, needing direction,(…)rest by this fire, and make you feel safeI love you,
The next stanza is nine lines long and informs the listener at the top that they should “Keep it”. It, meaning, the poem. “You” should “treasure the poem just like one would a map “if you were lost”. Once more a metaphor is being used here to compare the dedicatory poem to safety, security, and happiness. It is expanded in order to include not just physical dislocation but mental and emotional. Life becomes more and more chaotic as one progresses from birth to death and as it “mature[s]” the map/poem remains in a draw. IT is there, always tucked away in case it’s needed.
Baca uses another simile to compare the poem to a “cabin or hogan” that are hidden in the trees. If “you” need to, you should come to the cabin, knock on the door, and “I,” the speaker, will answer. By returning to this point you can reestablish the direction of your life.
It’s all I have to give,and all anyone needs to live,(…)no longer cares if you live or die;remember,I love you.
In the final seven lines of ‘I Am Offering this Poem,’ the speaker reiterates that the poem is “all” he has “to give”. But, this is not a bad thing. It might be all he has, but it is all “anyone needs to live”. The poem, and what it represents can provide you with a place of refuge when “the world outside / no longer cares if you live or die”. In the final line, Baca’s speaker asks that the listener remembers for the last time that “I love you”.