“At ten years old, my mother sustained bullet wounds in the thigh and foot during the war. My grandmother, having just lost her husband and with six children to care for, left my mother to die as the remaining members of the family fled for safety. Fortunately, my aunt, who was two years older, carried my mother on her back until they reached a hospital. This story of war, survival, immigration, and family has influenced my entire life. The themes of loss, betrayal, identity, and exile are all a part of my manuscript.”

Jia Oak Baker is a recipient of a 2015 Artist Research & Development Grant.

Artist Research and Development Grants are designed to support the advancement of artistic research, aid in the development of artistic work and recognize the contributions individual artists make to Arizona’s communities. For more information about the Artist Research & Development Grant, click here.

In her book-length poetry manuscript titled Radius, Jia Oak Baker will incorporate histories of pre- and post-war Korea as told from the perspective of three generations of women, all immigrants to America. It is a story of war, survival, immigration, and family that has influenced Baker’s entire life. Baker represents the third generation, fusing the stories of mother and grandmother together with a voice containing the empathic imagination for understanding and forgiveness in the face of loss, betrayal, exile, and assimilation. Baker believes that poetry, instead of prose, best captures the nuances of these family relationships and best relays the range of human emotions.

She is researching two sites to inform this writing: Busan, South Korea and Los Angeles, California.  Experiencing the landscapes where the events of her family’s history took place will inspire and inform new work, and at each place, she can acquire copies of documents and artifacts that will corroborate the narrative and add authenticity to the manuscript. Baker believes that the process of conducting the research might itself become a part of the storytelling—the need to articulate, find purpose in, and put form to this long history of pain and loss may very well become a part of the narrative.

JIA OAK BAKERaJia Oak Baker is a writer, teacher, and editor in Peoria, Arizona. She teaches writing at Paradise Valley Community College, serves on the editorial board for the community-based literary publication Four Chambers Press (Phoenix, AZ), and works as a literary teaching artist for the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. She is the author of two chapbooks of poems, Crash Landing in the Plaza of an Unknown City (Dancing Girl Press, 2015) and Well Enough to Travel (Five Oaks Press, 2015).

Baker’s poetic works address the experiences of immigration, longing, motherhood, displacement, and disillusionment. As an Asian-American, she often explores the concept of the “Other” and identity. She performs her work at public readings, as well as publishes to the page; her work appeared in Poet Lore, Gulf Stream Magazine, Inscape: A Journal of Literature and Art, The Good Men Project, Profane, DMQ Review, Blue Earth Review, Thin Air Magazine, Soundings Review, and the Mojave River Review. Honors include first place in both the Tucson Festival of Books Literary Contest (2013) and the Arizona Literary Awards (2012), a Pushcart Prize nomination (2012), a scholarship to the New York State Summer Writers’ Institute, the Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, a Hedgebrook Residency, and a Helene Wurlitzer Foundation Artist Residency. She holds a Masters of Education from Arizona State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing and Literature from Bennington College.

National Poetry Month 2016

In 1996, the Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this annual celebration of the poets and their work, the Arizona Commission on the Arts is throwing a spotlight on recent recipients of our Artist Research and Development Grant. Throughout the month we'll update this page with new entries.

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Perspectives: Jia Oak Baker

Perspectives is an on ongoing series of interviews and check-ins with recipients of our Artist Research and Development Grant (ARDG). Today we speak with 2015 ARDG recipient Jia Oak Baker of Peoria.

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