Farewells to Albert Huffstickler and Ed Eakin

Books Editor Clay Smith marks the recent passing of poet Albert Huffstickler and publisher Ed Eakin.

Albert Huffstickler
Albert Huffstickler (Photo By John Anderson)

Albert Huffstickler, Austin's unofficial, beloved poet laureate, died on Monday. The Hyde Park habitué could be found penning verse, always with suspenders on, at Dolce Vita, Julio's, Quack's, or just about any other place in the Duval & 45th area, would then run off copies of his latest creation at the Fresh Plus grocery store. He was 74. The legend goes like this: Since the early Seventies, "Huff," as he was known to his friends, wrote a poem a day -- not necessarily one poem every single day, but if he missed a day, he would make up for it. Judging from his voluminous output, just a small fraction of which appears in three large binders at Dolce Vita, the legend is good enough to print. "He was a great mentor to a lot of people, a great encourager of poetry," says ACC English professor Joe Hoppe, Huffstickler's friend and former pupil. "I'd say we lost a great observer of people," says Dennis Cole, another friend who was at Dolce Vita Monday afternoon remembering Huffstickler. "That's the first thing that came into my head," his daughter Margaret Huffstickler, who lives in Washington, D.C., added. "He was a great observer and very critical but he wouldn't criticize people," Cole said.

Brett Holloway-Reeves wrote an article about Huffstickler, "The Life and Times of an Emotional Transient," for the Chronicle in 1997, the year Huffstickler was honored by the Austin International Poetry Festival with a special "Tribute to Albert Huffstickler." "The thing about Huffstickler is whatever you think of him, he's not that guy. He's that one and several more," Holloway-Reeves wrote. "With his bloodshot stare and dusty skin, he looks like he ought to be on the Drag, wheedling you for 73 cents. But he doesn't drink. 'Maybe a beer with Mexican food.' He sampled the requisite marijuana and mescal in the Sixties, but drugs have never been his passion and once, under a doctor's care, they were nearly his death."

Huffstickler wrote his last poem in the hospital on Sunday, February 24:

Tired of being loved,

Tired of being left alone.

Tired of being loved,

Tired of being left alone.

Gonna find myself a place

Where all I feel is at home.

We'll report from the memorial service for Huffstickler, which will take place on Monday, March 4 at 8pm at Hyde Park Theatre (511 W. 43rd).

I hope there are printing presses in the afterlife, for Ed Eakin's sake. The productive publisher of Eakin Press died on Wednesday, February 20, at the age of 74. Since 1979, the Texas native sought out and published books by distinguished Texans who wanted to tell life stories or simply share anecdotes. It's estimated that since that time, he published approximately 1,000 books. Eakin was adept at hand-picking titles that had fallen through the cracks, and had an eagle eye for regional titles that otherwise probably wouldn't have been published, like last September's The Letters of John Wesley Hardin. He was a tireless and commited publisher, and the many authors he served will miss his compassion.

February is the cruelest month, if you're in retail. Willie Siros, who owns Adventures in Crime and Space Books, has known for a while that February would be harsh on his store; February is typically when consumers limit spending in order to pay off Christmas credit card debt. But the sci-fi and mystery bookstore didn't quite rake in the amount it had hoped for over the Christmas holidays and now faces a March 24 closing date unless suitable retail space is found soon. The irony is that Adventures in Crime and Space recently won a free billboard from Regan Advertising. "They had some Web site thing about 'win a free billboard' by answering three questions about Austin," Siros says, "and for whatever reason, we won the billboard. But I don't know whether to have a billboard that says 'Thanks for the memories,' or 'See us in our new location.'" Whatever happens, you'll find books at reduced prices at the store: Among used titles, it's $1 per paperback, $5 per hardback; 10% off on all new books, and 20% off after Tuesday, March 5. James Carlos Blake brings his new novel, A World of Thieves, to the store on Sunday, March 10, from 3 to 5pm.

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