Luis Montaño ’76 MFA
Ocote Press: 2015
Spokane artist Luis Montaño’s book of poetry, 50 years in the making, dips deep into his childhood in New Mexico and tells autobiographical and allegorical stories of the wide landscape, grizzled veterans, and a favorite diner hangout with friends.
Montaño worked for many years as a ceramic artist and jewelry designer, as well as teaching at Eastern Washington University, after graduating from WSU. As he committed himself to his metal and ceramic art, poetry gave him another outlet for reminiscences of his hometown of Santa Rosa along Route 66, working the fields in California, and the New Mexican desert.
Those memories, captured in poetic details and crystal-sharp characters, show Montaño’s love of the place and the people who shaped his life.
When the Sangre de Cristo slows
to a red meander,
clotted to a domesticated pace,
follow it out. Accept the mud of baptism;
live with the accords of its delta, like the chile verde.
While some of the poems, such as “Chavez” and “In America” make a strong statement for justice, many of the poems put New Mexico’s landscape in relief: the llano where “birds spice the sky like a pinch of black pepper,” the dusty roads, and most of all, Montaño’s home. Even while he worked in Spokane, Montaño felt a connection to the Southwest.
“I always went back to Santa Rosa at least a couple of times a year,” he told Dennis Held in a 2015 article for Prime magazine. “I missed the red earth.”
Montaño’s poems also draw compelling portraits of the people who populate the New Mexican towns. For example, he brings the reader right into his father’s life as a World War II veteran, through military keepsakes, in “Things I Found in the Garage.”
It may have taken 50 years to put together his book of poetry, but Montaño has shown his artistry in words as well as metal and ceramics.