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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 10, 2001
This just may be one of the best books of poetry I have ever read. A strong statement to be sure but you just have to read these poems to see what I mean. Abeyta, professor of English at Colorado State University and multiple prize winning poet, has blended the English and Spanish languages into a lyrical style, tone and imagery that is almost musical in its effect. Using his Hispanic culture and heritage he introduces the reader to what he considers to be the two most true things on earth: Family and human emotion. "A poem without family or emotion is, to me, nothing more than letters upon letters, the sound of hoofbeats without ever having seen the horse." Thus, by combining these two timeless subjects, Abeyta, letter upon letter and word upon word, shares with the reader what he considers to be "..all that is real to me, love, death, emotion and family. I shall put them into stories a hundred times over, one poem at a time."This he does in an unforgettable collection that explores the essence of humanity, the land of his people, and the individuals of his family that resonate with clarity, compassion and yes, love, death, emotion, and family. In these forty-two poems we meet herders, farmers, grandparents, tortilla makers, and a host of other so-called common people who have been exploited but not defeated. It has been said that Abeyta's poems about the exploitation of the common people belong in the same league with those of Walt Whitman, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Pablo Neruda. High praise indeed and richly deserved. If you are looking for poetry that speaks to the soul, not in a "mushy" or "touchy-feely" way but with understanding and wisdom about things that matter, this is for you. This is the kind of writing that gives poetry a good name.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2001
colcha needs no dust jacket.

The 42 poems within and the poet himself are already covered with the authentic dust of dying grass, cedar fence post, dry ditches, alfalfa fields, low riding Monte Carlos, tired Ford 3/4 ton pick ups, and the rutted roads outside the small southern Colorado town of Antonito. It's a fine adobe dust that clings to sweaty skin like an old shirt.

From birth Aaron Abeyta learned rural work. He knows the spring of a tractor seat, the heft of hay bails, the irrigating pull of the Conejos River, the instincts of cows, and the instinctive, unison movement of sheep. But his real work became the creation of daringly intimate poems that move at a careful and measured walking pace.

Cumulatively, these remarkable poems urge us to learn about the land (here or anywhere) by meeting the source of its community and culture--by meeting families. "I have family here," Abeyta writes. It's family he knows so well he sweeps their graves. These Antonito stories, so delightfully particular to an old community rich in culture, convey their universality in the tribute, celebration, and resurrection of family and of friends--both famous and infamous.

Here, the poet works in the solitude required of him, but he is never alone. The truth of family and community and culture spreads over him like the land, like the wind, like the sky. Thanks to the embrace and voice and face of family, the land has an embrace (my heart somehow held within its adobe walls), the wind has a voice (god whispers/my own name to me from the alfalfa fields), and the sky has a face (a blood shot eye/a face that has had too much wine).

In colcha you'll find purposeful language lyrically illuminated with affectionate Spanish salutations (abuelito, tia, carnal) and the tones of San Luis Valley phrasing that lack satisfactory English translation (para buscar otro mar, tan poquito el amor luego perderlo).

To be sure, it's death that tightens the stitches of this collection, and it is death that ultimately ties Abeyta's family and community and culture to the land. But in his patient hand death rarely descends to tragedy. His stories are more often sly than dark, modulated rather than graphic, sweet rather than maudlin.

And death doesn't keep him from giving away an inside joke. In poems like "zoot suit jesus," "thirteen ways of looking at a tortilla," "santa fe girl," "instructions on how to write a pinche suicide note," "mixed metaphor," and even the astringent "december 20th," he goes for the laugh and gets it.

If death is a horse that "ran so fast...only its tail got wet," then Aaron Abeyta is a poet who grabs that palomina by the mane and allows us to slip on her bare back. There we feel the deep, hot breathing of emotion, "the second most true thing on earth."

"Nothing is myth," he promises, and--perhaps knowing death too well--he gently steers us toward the first most true thing on earth, family.

Is Abeyta is a writer who knows the land? He's better, because his land--the high, broad llano between Colorado's shadowy San Jauns and sharp Sangre de Cristos--already knows him, like a brother and by name.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2013
This writer is amazing, he is spot on when it comes to the history of the San Luis Valley, and the family's who have been in the area for generations.
His poetry on his family and the area is so real and so enjoyed reading it. It is a favorite book!
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