Raul / 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 Soledad State Prison in California. Over the span
of the next 15 years, Salinas spent eleven 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 was shaped. 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 called "The Quarter Note" which ran for eighteen months. In Leavenworth
he played a key role in founding and producing two important prison journals, Aztlan de Leavenworth and New Era Prison Magazine.
It was in these journals that his poetry first circulated and gained recognition within and outside of the prison 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 Aztlan de Leavenworth, "Trip thru 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 obtained early release from Marion Federal Penitentiary in 1972. As a student at
the University of Washington, Salinas worked in various community development projects and forged alliances with Native American
groups in the Northwest, a relationship that was to intensify over the next fifteen 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 twenty-two years since his release from Marion, Salinas' involvement with various political movements has earned him
an international reputation as an eloquent spokesman for justice. Salinas literary reputation in Austin has earned him recognition
as the poet laureate of the East Side and the title of "maestro" from emerging poets who seek his advice and leadership. His
literary work is perhaps most widely known for its street aesthetics and a sensibility which documents the interactions, hardships,
and strife of barrio and prison life. The influence of jazz within his oeuvre connects it with the work of "Beat Generation"
poets, musicians, and songwriters. His poetry collections include dedications, references, and responses to Allen Ginsberg,
Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski, Charles Parker, Herschel Evans, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis, for example.
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