jazz, free-jazz and improvised music

mark weber | the judson crews I know

Judson Crews – Taos, December 24, 2000 | Photo by Mark Weber

We were drinking buddies. My wife and I had moved to Albuquerque the summer of 1991. I knew from reading the little (aka: the littles) poetry magazines that Judson Crews lived in Albuquerque. I think it was Joan Jobe Smith or Marilyn Johnson who gave Judson my address because one day I received a letter from Judson and so we got together. Drank and talked poetry.

Back then the little poetry magazines were on fire. There were at least a hundred very good crazy lively poetry magazines in America during the 1970s and 1980s before the web wiped them out. They didn’t have huge print runs and circulation was spotty, but somehow we all read them. That is, mostly poets read them. And it wasn’t that the writing was all that good, in retrospect, it was mostly the immediacy of them and the exuberance, and the sheer fun of it that made them so good. Poets could cobble together various anxieties and a few nonsequiturs and give it a title and boom boom you got a poem. And boom boom boom you could have it published. All of the poems worked together like a giant soup. Judson had been a mainstay of the littles for decades.

Judson has a style that consists of improvising. He starts off with an opening gambit and then lets it go wherever it suggests. There is nothing in his poems that is factually true, he doesn’t write about his life or tell stories about derring do. The poems write themselves, in a way. I used to argue with him about this, but, over time I’ve come to see his way as so perfect and sensible. It’s not like the poems are not true themselves. And that there are not truths in the poems.

I think Judson was a remarkable poet. In some ways it took me a few years to realize the full measure of his accomplishment.

Nowadays he lives in Taos, New Mexico, near his two daughters and his granddaughters. Mildred Tolbert, the photographer (see her book AMONG THE TAOS MODERNS) passed away in 2007 at age 89. Judson is now 92 and lives at the Taos Living Center. His daughter Anna Bush Crews selected these photos that Judson took in the 1980s. Anna Bush lives half the year in Taos and half in Wales where she taught photography at the university. Judson’s second daughter, Carole Crews, just published a magnificent book on adobe construction called CLAY CULTURE: PLASTERS, PAINTS AND PRESERVATION. Janet and I visited with them over the holidays. His grandson, Sohrab Crews, (son of Anna Bush) is an artist and has a gallery in London. —Mark Weber, 1feb10 Albuquerque

NOTE: Judson can be found on ALBUZERXQUE Vol. 6

Judson Crews during wild party — solstice 1991 Albuquerque — drawing by his grandson Sohrab Crews

Judson Crews | self portrait


I never said that summer was a sword
I never said that all the soldiers would be dead

The moon rises in summer as in winter
no bayonet yet has spiked it for long

Oh our season, our season, prismatic as time
our time pragmatic as love. The moon

Left debris in its wake on many islands
on many islands the soldiers lie

They lie in the arms of the memory of mercy
they lie as if smitten with the memory of love

But it was not the memory that did it here
nor was it the summer’s cruel sword

Judson Crews | smile in Mexico

In Texas we got persimmons

This is what she said, standing in
water just at her breasts — those tiny

Little boobs. Thirteen you might think
she was, but eighteen was more like it

They are up there until the frost turns
them to sugar. I know, I said

What you got in Texas. Man
and boy I was Texan for three

Decades. This was at Llano Quemado
the Taos hot springs. Likely, the first

Time she was ever naked in front
of a stranger. Texas. Girls, girls

Some of them are girls forever, no matter
how they grow. The leaves are gone

She said. And they are sweet as sugar
— but you have to shake them down

Judson Crews | as CHET

It’s waking. You
aaaaaaawoke me. It’s bright

Sun. And as far as the eye can see
it’s a wedding day. Not to a bride

To the earth’s birth. To birdsong
to the rainbow in a cloudless sky

Epithalmia. You are hissing in
my deaf ear — dreamer, dreamer, dreaming

Judson Crews | pose for Huntress

So it happened
aaaayou got a wood-tick

Imbedded in your genital pelt. You never
noticed, till he was sucked full

Of your blood, and began to hurt — that
loathsome thing black as a blueberry

How ashamed you were and loathing
as if he were an unchosen rival lover

Leeching upon your intimate self
I screwed him out, careful not to

break off his head in your tender
flesh and make a festering sore

It was only after I threw him and
shattered him and splattered your blood

Upon a rock — that I knew
my true feelings. Then I observed

For days that dark star, and questioned

myself, Am I not he

Judson Crews | red stripe selfportrait

It’s not that she led me on

I was a fool for asking, where are we
going — we were gone. We?

I was there alone. I could tell you
the awe I felt, the vista and all

Its mystical receding planes
but it’s not so — I was numb

My wonder was a deeper wonder
why was I brought here

How will I seek a way
of turning back

Judson Crews | shoebox light

If the gods were weeping it is for

Themselves they weep. How many
days did Noah prepare an ark

And provision it — with slugs
and bumblebees, diverse untoward

Creatures. And a few casks of old wine —
Has one of us yet

aaaaaaaaaaNot waded ashore

Judson Crews | December 26, 2009 Taos, New Mexico | Photo: Mark Weber

Judson Crews & his daughters Anna Bush & Carole Crews December 26, 2009  Taos, New Mexico | Photo: Mark Weber


  1. Paula Mayhew

    Mark Weber introduced me to Judson Crews soon after he and Janet Simon moved to Albuquerque. Being an old-fashioned card catalogue scholar at the time, I knew about “little magazines” but had seldome actually read one, certainly not all the way through . Judson immediately remedied that failing of mine with gifts of “littles” and we sat down to drink some serious vodka.. (They were, at that time, champion anything-at-all drinkers.)

    My memory is fuzzy, but I do know that Judson tried to shock me with sort of off-color, Henry Milleresque remarks. Obviously I wasn’t too impressed. What did impress me, though, was his declaration that he was a “Dumpster Diver.” I couldn’t believe it, so he regaled us with dumpster-diving anecdotes throughout the New Mexican afternoon. It was fabulous.

    Whenever I see a dumpster, I thnk fondly of Judson.

  2. Joe Somoza

    First off, I’m glad Judson is still alive. I first saw his poetry in those mimeo books with great black & white photos of fully nude women (pubic hair and all) at the Chase Mansion Bookstore in El Paso in 1966-7 when I had my first teaching job at Texas Western. I never really got to know him but I later met him and heard him read during the era of the Rio Grande Writers Association. He seemed interesting and full of vitality. He also occasionally sent poems to Puerto Del Sol when I was poetry editor. Here’s one we published in the Spring ’83 issue:

    It was not as if I was getting

    Ready to go. We were already
    gone. I assumed a kind of

    Possession of you. Whether amidst
    the subtle panting of high leaves

    In soft air. Or there, in deep snow
    or else insects in discreet quail

    Not as if one by each and only one–
    but as if by each and every kind

    You could name them as well as I
    or the hawk who would get

    His gore. Did we move because
    of a phantom becoming? Or was I

    Pursuing tail gone wild again–
    wilder than I knew

    • Jim

      I was in the Army at Fort Bliss in 1967, spent a fair bit of time at Chase Mansion. It was operated by Drew & Terry Wagnon. I met a a guy named Pete Zangara there, a guitar player from Detroit. He and I later put together a band in Milwaukee in 1969/70. I remember a few others from that time, a guy named Howard White from California, and a guy from Texas named Mike Rivas.

  3. Diana Huntress

    Hi Mark, You have a national treasure here! The toga photo doesn’t ring a bell. Would be happy to share a few others with you if you will email me.

  4. Robin Collier

    Judson Crews died Monday morning May 17, 2010 and was buried that day at sunset in Tres Orejas west of Taos by his daughter Carole and many friends.

  5. Bobby Byrd

    Mark, thanks for this. Judson would do a little dance.

  6. celia goth

    I knew Anna Bush Crews in Zambia 1974 ish, when she was friends with my dad. She took some great pictures of us as kids. She was great, really cool and friendly. I didn’t know that her dad was at the university.

  7. Kenneth W. Titt

    Judson Crews taught me sociology at Wharton County Junior College (Texas) in 1968. Fond memories of his class and of Professor Crews.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2024 metropolis

Theme by Anders Noren adapted for M.etropolis by RavanHUp ↑