Judson Crews, Taos poet, dies at 92

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Taos poet Judson Crews wore blue jeans and, like much of his life, it set him apart from everyone else.

“He wore them before anyone else did. And denim jackets, too,” daughter Carole Crews said of her father, who died Monday (May 17) at age 92. “He was very different from most people. Very ahead of his time. I remember seeing his college photograph. He had a beard and underneath it said, ‘One in a million.’ ”

Born in Waco, Texas, in 1917, Crews found his way to Taos in 1947, after living in Big Sur, Calif., near his friend and “Tropic of Capricorn” author Henry Miller. In Taos he met and married photographer Mildred Tolbert. The two settled in a large hacienda on Valerio Road that cost $2,000 “in those days,” Carole Crews said.

The two enjoyed a 1950s bohemian lifestyle of perfecting their crafts, being parents and partying with their fellow artists.

“It was amazing and fun to be around so many artists and writers,” Carole Crews said of her childhood.

But it wasn’t all play — Tolbert, who was a prolific photographer, worked diligently, while Crews worked for 18 years as a printer for El Crepúsculo — the newspaper forerunner of The Taos News — scribbling at night and on weekends.

“He could write 20 poems in an afternoon,” Crews said of her father’s output.

Crews’ writing was so natural that when he and Tolbert divorced after 25 years of marriage, Crews took a trip to Africa and did what he did best — he wrote about it.

“He wrote reams and reams and quit about halfway through. He just couldn’t come to terms with his marriage,” Carole Crews said.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Crews began honing the writing underground with what he called “the littles” — small, intense, selfpublished poetry books and magazines he famously illustrated with black and white photographs of nude women.

One of his most famous magazine endeavors was known as “The Naked Ear,” Carole Crews said. Some of these magazines published some famous American authors like Charles Bukowski.

“I think he loved poetry because of the rhythm. He loved to make up words,” Carole Crews said. “Drumble was one. I don’t know what it means.”

“The littles” made Judson Crews something of a cult legend with local Poets, including writer Mark Weber, who wrote a blog article about his friendship with Crews in Albuquerque when they met in 1991.

“We were drinking buddies,” Weber wrote of Crews. “Back then the little poetry magazines were on fire. They didn’t have huge print runs and circulation was spotty, but somehow we all read them. Judson had been a mainstay of the littles for decades.”

Fairleigh Dickinson University Prof. Paula Mayhew wrote on Weber’s blog about Crews’ pioneering practice of dumpster-diving one afternoon in the early 1990s.

“We sat down to drink some serious vodka. What impressed me was his declaration that he was a ‘dumpster diver.’ He regaled us with dumpsterdiving stories throughout the afternoon,” Mayhew wrote. “It was fabulous. Whenever I see a dumpster, I think fondly of Judson.”

Carole Crews said a fence was installed to indulge her father’s other luxury: Nudity.

“He was sort of a nudist. He loved sunbathing like that,” Crews said. “We had stockades around the house so he could lie in the sun in the nude.”

Crews’ final resting place, his daughter said, would be a sun-soaked plot in the Tres Orejas Cemetery. The family burial took place at sundown Monday evening.

cjohnson@taosnews.com

This article ran in the May 20 edition of The Taos News.

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