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"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"

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Taos, New Mexico USA







                                                            By Denise Chavez


        Jim Sagel belonged to Española, New Mexico, to all New Mexico, and in turn, he belonged to all of us.  Jim lived in the low-rider capital of the world, which is about the most exciting and wonderful small town on earth.  I know.  I lived there.  And if I were to move from my hometown, I'd make a bee-line there.  Jim Sagel was one of the first people I met when I moved there in 1973.  Gracious, charming, with a ready, authentic smile, Jim taught English and literature at Española High School.

        Born in Colorado, there was no one who became more New Mexican than Jim, or Jaime, as he liked to be called.  He married Teresa Archuleta, native New Mexican weaver.  She and her family became his lifeblood, inspiring and bringing his work to fruition.

        In his writing, Jim was able to celebrate and and empower the linguistics of New Mexican "talk," that absolutely dynamic and living idiom of a people who know two languages and can go back and forth between them with ease, forging new expression and colorful language with an intake of breath.

        Jim knew the voices of his people:  the vietas and viejitos del valle, descendants de los espanoles and don't you forget it: Dona Agueda, the old woman with wrinkles as deep as El Rio Oso, los batos del Brewtown barrio, la ruca named La "Miss All Around Girl of the Holy Cross Fighting Conquistadores" who ended up with six kids and an abusive husband.

        Jim knew his land and wrote of it with passion and a fresh eye.  Española, twenty-seven miles north of Santa Fe, that beautiful and startling, arresting expanse of land backboned by the Sangre de Cristo mountains, named for the Blood of Christ, was his world.  And in turn, his New Mexico, raw, sensual, full of linguistic chipa, incredible mercy, and indelible, heart-rending images of lives on the edge, people who carried on, y con corazon, became our own.

        Jim Sagel was the author of fifteen books of poetry and prose, and in later years taught bilingual education courses at the University of New Mexico.  His international literary awards included the Premio Casa de Las Americas, Latin America's equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, for his book of short stories, Tunomas Honey.

        Jim Sagel is dead by his own hand.  I don't understand this inexplicable and inexorable movement.  I will miss Jim, his loving, bright blue eyes, his gentle spirit and sharp wit.  His students will mourn him, and his colleagues will carry his undiminished flame in their hearts.  Jim was my compadre in the truest sense of the word, the ever-related godfather of mine and so many other people's work, un compañero en esta movida de arte y literatura.

        I want to think of Jim at the wheel of his car, in front of the Blake's Lota Burger on Guadalupe Street in Santa Fe, as he introduced writer Sandra Cisneros to New Mexico's finest hamburger, a veritable institution worth savoring.  Jim lets out giant and wonderful cacajadas, as I sit in the back seat, my hands full with a giant Lota Burger, double cheese with green chile.  We've just finished a fine reading and driven from Los Alamos, where Jim, ever gracious, has been our host.  It's dark inside Jim's small car, and that adds to the magic of the memory.  There are books and students' papers everywhere.  This is life.  A complete and sacred moment.  Three writers reveling in the joy of words, shared experience, delighted by friendship, holding burgers tightly, reverently, so as not to lose a morsel.

        In Jim Sagel's poem "Me Quieres," the male character asks the woman if she loves him.  "Yes, very much," she responds.

                    "Me quieres?" pregunta el.
                    "Si, mucho," responda ella.

        We love you, Jim.  Para siempre.

        To be loved by a place and its people -- surely that's the greatest blessing.
                (Denise Chavez, author of the acclaimed novel Face of an Angel,
                 originally wrote this article for National Public Radio.)


   Saki Karavas and Frank 


  “We Will Meet Again . . .”

            It saddened me greatly to learn that Charles Hathaway died in Green Valley, Arizona, just a few days after his one hundredth birthday in April 2002.  He was preceded in death by his wife, Berenice.  In typical fashion he’d celebrated his birthday milestone at lunch with a number of his favorite relatives.  Charles consistently made the most of the full century granted him.

Charles and Frank

            After a topnotch career in school finance in Colorado, he painted watercolors and wrote published poetry right up until the end of his life.  In his nineties he wrote his memoir, Back-Alley Boys, about growing up with Frank Waters, which book FWF published and has for sale (see back page).  Charles decided, “Writing is hell!”  But Professor Joseph Gordon wrote of him and his book:

Through his sharp images of their shared world and stories of their boyish escapades, he shows us how their friendship matured to the benefit of both.

Along the way we get a fresh look at the bustling western community

they experienced [Colorado Springs], and how that world and their abiding friendship helped shape Waters.

Carol Raymond, Hathaway’s daughter and only child, generously donated to the FWF collection all of her father’s signed first editions of Frank’s books, as well as Charles’s new Phillips portable CD mini system for our residents’ studio.  We thank Carol and her husband, Bob, for their friendship and valuable gifts to posterity.

As for those two mischief-makers, Charles and Frank, I suspect they are busy again, greasing the stairway to the Pearly Gates before battering them down.     BW  


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