ALAMOSA (December 1) – When an idea for a poem, prose, or letter sparks, Aaron Abeyta captures the creative impulse writing with a green ink pen on a manila folder. One of his favorite writers, Pablo Neruda, wrote with green ink and “manila folders are light and rigid if I need to write on my lap.”
His latest book, “Letters From the Headwaters,” was published by Western Press Books this fall. The book contains a collection of letters Abeyta wrote for Western State University’s annual Headwaters Conference, messages to close friends and relatives, and elegies to his hometown and those who have passed through it or continue to live within the townships’ boundaries.
Abeyta, Adams State University professor of English, will read from his new book at the Senior Creative Writers Capstone Reading and Publication Celebration, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 11, in McDaniel Hall room 101. Creative writing seniors Alana Dylan and Richard Flamm will read from their projects as well. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
Abeyta has written letters to the conference for over two decades. “Letters From the Headwaters” editor, John Hausdoerffer, suggested binding all of them together. As the Headwaters Project director, Hausdoerffer has known Abeyta for ten years. “I have worked with Aaron on improving the representation of southern Colorado and Hispanos voices at the conference.”
In “Letters From the Headwaters,” Hausdoerffer’s Editor’s Note describes those who attend the fall conference as “mostly transient, mostly Anglo, relatively privileged audience.” He believes Abeyta’s message helps the participants understand what it means to live in and to love Antonito, Colorado. “I consider Aaron the ‘Complicater in Chief’ at the conference, meaning that people’s sense of the Headwaters as a region of white-privileged second-home ski towns is unsettled–that this once was and still is El Norte, a home land for many who go back centuries.”
Throughout “Letters From the Headwaters” Abeyta’s connection to his hometown Antonito, flows and banks to erode away the reader’s preconceptions of time and place. “I never write about the idea I start with, I let it take me where it wants to go and then I cut back to the truest idea,” Abeyta said.
Adams State Professor of Art Eugene Schilling illustrated the cover. “Aaron’s books have so much visual imagery.” Narrowing to the essence was a challenge. “The painting, on the cover, is called Aaron’s River Dream with subjects from the book.”
Dr. Mark Todd, editor-in-chief for Western Press Books first met Abeyta as a fellow professor and poet, and later became his publisher. “Aaron’s words have a magical way of transcending the page, lifting the reader’s imagination and carrying the mind’s eye into the world he recreates through verse. But it’s the soul of those places that remains even after the specific imagery fades.”
Abeyta’s “first love” was writing letters. “It is my fall back. All my books have letters in them, even my novel.” The letters are “rarely” sent through a mail system, rather he hands them out, if they were actually written for an individual or group. “Lots of my subjects have passed, some even before I was born. The letter is about the subject, not to them.”
“Aaron has emerged as one of the great voices of the Southwest, a combination of Borges and Bruce Springsteen demanding respect and justice for his home,” Hausdoerffer said. “To learn from Aaron is to learn how to live here.”
Todd agrees: “Aarron A. Abeyta is the most important poet of place writing in the West today. His words capture and inspire a shared sense of place that’s rare, gifted, and genuine.”
Abeyta demonstrates his strong commitment to his community in his writing and by serving as Antonito’s mayor.