Aaron Anstett does not smuggle cocaine. However, he does include a backward sonnet about it in his just-released third book of poetry, Each Place the Body's, from which he'll read at the Smokebrush Gallery this weekend.
Jarringly eloquent in his unfurled discontent, Anstett is "interested in exploring the dark corners ... areas that aren't necessarily explored in poems."
So Anstett leaves the reader with a refreshing sense of unease under the skin, a trace of mental vertigo that isn't easily steadied. And while he doesn't buy into the notion that the best poems are born of anguish, he laughingly admits that most of his work has been cathartic.
"When one has pain, one might as well do something with it," he explains.
Anstett has spun his own subtle disquiet into gold, weaving line upon line of sharp observation and precise verbiage into a careful array for the mind to dissect or disregard. It's something this "sub-40[-year-old]" has been doing for more than 20 years.
First published in his high school literary journal, Anstett has produced "thousands of poems," and has sought to inspire and teach others. With his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Iowa, he has taught writing and poetry for 15 years, most recently at Colorado State University in Pueblo.
However, qvi docent discit he who teaches, learns and Anstett says his students have taught him something important, too.
"The desire to express oneself is universal," he says.
Anstett put out his first book, Sustenance, 10 years ago. His second book, No Accident, won the 2006 Nebraska Book Award, the 2005 Balcones Poetry Prize and the 2004 Backwaters Press Prize. But even with such critical acclaim, and a third book now released, Anstett still enjoys sorting through his verses at open poetry readings. Not everything that works on a page, he says, will work on a stage.
Plus, bringing poetry to the masses is something of a passion. When Anstett first came to Colorado Springs from Madison, Wis., he found a dearth of spoken-word events in the area.
"At that time there wasn't much going on," he says, "so I felt like if nobody else would do it, I would."
And so he has. Anstett currently serves as vice president for Poetry West, which holds monthly workshops, and has helped organize events like the Pikes Peak Library District's Annual Youth Writing Contest.
It's all with the same goals that he has in teaching and writing: to inspire and be inspired. Above all else, he wants people to know that "the next poem is the most important one, and to keep reading."
Launch party, signing and author reading: Smokebrush Gallery, 218 W. Colorado Ave., Saturday, May 12, 2 p.m.; free.