E.A. Tony Mares
Credit: Stephen Cussen

University of New Mexico Professor Emeritus of English E. A. “Tony” Mares – teacher, essayist, poet - died January 30 at the age of 76.  A memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 8 at 3:30 p.m. in the UNM Alumni Chapel. Mares, who was born May 17, 1938 in Albuquerque, died from complications of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

English Department Chair Gail Houston said, He was a lovely, lovely man, a funny, gentle man who loved words and their power. He was also something of a philosopher as well as poet and novelist; he told me once about how he really would love to teach a class on philosophy--metaphysics, I believe it was. I was so impressed by what a Renaissance man he was. “

Mares, with Miguel Montiel and Tomás Atencio, wrote, “Resolana, Emerging Chicano Dialogs on Community and Globalization.” The publisher, University of Arizona Press, describes the book: “Resolana will inspire dialogue and creativity from those interested in sociology, political science, social work and Chicano studies, as well as public policy makers and the general public.”

 “I admired Tony very much. He participated in our recent Outside the Margins project and contributed an original poem to the process. I will make sure that his contributions are honored as we move forward.  He was a person of great integrity and he defended the right to make a place in the world that valued cultural self-determination. I admire that about him; he reminds us of how fragile our creativity is and how important it is to protect it and cherish it, said Manuel Montoya, assistant professor of International Management and Global Structures in the Anderson School of Management.

Mares wrote on his website, “I was educated as a historian and Spanish Literature specialist. After teaching history and languages for many years, however, I became increasingly uncomfortable with my own way of understanding the world and also with my way of expressing that understanding. More and more, I turned to poetry.”

Sharon Oard Warner, professor and founding director of the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, said, “I know many poets but none have loved the written word more than Tony Mares.  He was devoted to poetry--writing and reading it, translating the work of others, and nurturing the future of poetry through his teaching.  A warm and gentle spirit, he was one of poetry's best ambassadors. We will miss his presence in the world but are grateful for what we have of him on the page.”

Mares' published poetry includes, “The Unicorn Poem and Flowers and Songs of Sorrow,” and “Río Del Corazón.” Of the latter, Renny Golden wrote in the introduction, “These poems are a lamentation and a tribute to the Río Grande that flows from snow-capped mountains to the sea, and whose fidelity, in spite of poisonous threat, endures.” He was an author featured in “Voices,” featuring contemporary poets from the American Southwest.

Local poet and graduate student in writing and rhetoric Don McIver said, “Tony Mares was an integral part in the development and growth of not only UNM poets, but all poets who call this city home. He was quick with a smile and reassuring word and seemed woven into the fabric of this town. Whether it be his revolutionary spirit, his gentleness or his love of Spanish and Albuquerque, he touched many people's lives and enriched the literary community.  Until the end, Tony still worked to make Albuquerque a better place. He will be missed and cherished by all whose lives he touched.”

Another poem: Ode to los librotraficantes, Mares described as, “My poem dedicated to the brave cultural warriors who take banned books to Arizona.”

From the poem:

Once your ancestors crossed the Rio Grande,

Their bodies wet from the swirling water,

The sweat running down their backs.

Now you carry wet books in your caravan,

Books dripping with wisdom. You are

the most dangerous caravan in America.

Centennial Poet and Chicano Studies Assistant Professor Levi Romero said, "Tony was a prolific writer whose work was as expansive as the themes he wrote about. With Ash Wednesday and La Cueresma upon us soon, I am reminded of his poem, Ash Wednesday / Easter: a Road Poem. It appeared in the 1980 anthology Ceremony of Brotherhood, a tri-centennial commemoration of the Indian Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Years ago I studied this poem word-for-word, line-for-line. The fluidity of the imagery and the fragile sense of solitude broken up by the radio DJ's companionship churned me on. For I too was a wandering spirit looking for something on which to harness my creative aspirations.

Darkness rains down on me

as I descend the Ortiz Mountains.

A steel guitar, a country violin

and Cowboy Copas mourn

for lost love on the radio.

"Tony gave me, as he did to so many, a shoulder on which I could momentarily place my heavy load. His words of encouragement and acknowledgement pushed me onward. I will miss him, his humor and wit, his intelligence. His sabiduría. I will miss the steadiness of his mentorship. He, the elder statesman, the wise and humble maestro who always placed the student before himself.

The Ranch and Farm report tells me

lambs are still being led to slaughter.

At the rest top on la bajada hill

a cold wind knocks me about,

reminds me I am dust

pasted on to a few sticks of bone.

Gracias por todo, Tony. Nos veremos en la vuelta."

Mares wrote, “For you, the reader, I hope you will enjoy my work. Some of my poems are meant to be humorous, others deal with political and social issues, and still others simply relate to the many worlds I describe…I want to entertain you, to enrage you, to make you reflect on our condition as arrogantly self-styled homo sapiens sapiens. If my poems even barely make you think about or reflect upon the stupid things we have done to ourselves over the last ten thousand years or so, then they will have succeeded as poems.”

Mares is survived by his wife, Carolyn Meyer; son Ernesto Mares, daughter Vered Mares, daughter Maria Ehrnstein and her family, including granddaughters Lianna, Shannon and Danielle; and brothers Chris and Michael and their families. He was preceded in death by his daughter Galit and his parents, Rebecca and Ernesto Gustavo Mares.