'Susto' by Tommy Archuleta

In his first full-length poetry collection, Santa Fean Tommy Archuleta defines the title, Susto, as the Spanish word for “shock” or “magical fright.” Search the term, and you’ll find it’s also included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition, under “cultural concepts of distress.” In Latin countries and cultures, “susto” is what you call it when the soul leaves the body as a result of terrible trauma. Susto is about the bottomless grief Archuleta experienced when his mother died in 2013. His poems will reach anyone who has experienced such a loss or has wrestled with profound sadness.

I’ve known Archuleta as a Santa Fe resident since the 1990s. From a distance, I’ve witnessed his climb from a deeply troubled early adulthood to a rewarding career as a mental health and substance abuse counselor — and now, as author of one of the strongest debut poetry collections I’ve ever read.

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