Keysi Montás balances career with love for writing and art

by Kylee Sibilia | 3/7/17 1:55am

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Keysi Montás is the associate director of Safety and Security at the College.

Source: Courtesy of Rebel Roberts

By day, Keiselim “Keysi” Montás is the associate director of Safety and Security. However, outside of his duties as a public safety officer, Montás enjoys carpentry, tango dancing and writing Spanish poetry and fiction. Montás has been recognized by the Dominican Republic, where he grew up, for his contributions to Spanish literature. He has published four books of poems and short stories, the most recent of which is currently displayed in King Arthur Flour in Baker-Berry Library.

The book, “Como El Agua,” is a collection of Spanish haikus inspired by the themes that Montás finds most compelling: water, nature, life and writing. These themes comprise the four sections of the book, which include 49 haikus accompanied by 53 full color images, ranging from illustrations created by Andy Castillo, Japanese calligraphy made by Elena “Hikari” and photographs taken by Montás himself. The cover work was done by Montás’ young daughter, Mía Montás Antigua.

Montás said that the haiku format appealed to him because of its ability to depict both parallelism and contrast. As a Japanese form, the haiku format also added to the cross-cultural connections of “Como El Agua.” Montás appreciated this connection between Japanese, Spanish and English writing, describing the power of this book to bridge the circle among his English-speaking, Spanish-speaking and bilingual friends.

Montás spoke to the power of the haiku format to evoke an emotional response in his readers.

“[A haiku] represents a particular moment that could evoke the reader to be placed in that same location, sort of seeing what I am seeing at that moment,” Montás said.

In addition to being published in its original Spanish format, “Como El Agua,” has also been published in English as “Like Water.” Montás worked with former Dartmouth Spanish professor Elizabeth Polli to create this translated version, which is the first of his books to be published in English. Montás said that he is excited that his work will now be accessible to a wider audience.

Montás also noted that his love of writing and literature has motivated him to take advantage of the many cultural resources Dartmouth has to offer, including lectures, art exhibits and concerts.

“I have been able to come [to Dartmouth] and be the complete person that I am instead of having to compartmentalize my creative life with my professional life,” Montás said. “Here, I am part of this academic, creative community, and I also do my job as a safety officer. I don’t see or haven’t found any contradiction between the two of them.”

As second in command for the Safety and Security department, Montás has extensive responsibilities involved with day-to-day administration. However, despite his packed professional schedule, Montás still finds time to better the Dartmouth community by inviting speakers, organizing readings and acting as a trip advisor for the Tucker Foundation.

Montás took students to the Dominican Republic for several years, assisting with development projects in underprivileged areas. When Haiti was decimated by the 2010 earthquake, Montás used his contacts in the Dominican Republic to take people from Dartmouth to provide relief.

Harry Kinne, director of Safety and Security, noted the value Montás’ interaction with the Dartmouth community brings to the department’s representation.

“I think it really helps our department in the sense that people may look at someone in our profession and see someone who is sort of narrow,” Kinne said. “I think [Montás] being out in the community and showing that people can be a professional, but they also have a whole other side and a whole other depth, that sort of dispels stereotypic beliefs that people associate with public safety. He’s a good representative for all of us.”

Kinne also said that Montás’ creative personality is an asset in his role as a public safety officer.

“It’s always good to have someone who can step outside the box and look at issues and really take a hard look at the way things traditionally have been solved and maybe offer a whole new perspective on how to approach those,” Kinne said.

Another one of Montás’ colleagues, Sergeant Rebel Roberts, also spoke to his ability to provide a bridge between Safety and Security and the Dartmouth student body.

“That’s something [Montás] is an integral part of because he’s a mentor to so many students,” Roberts said. “He’s just a really wonderful person to connect with and be able to grow and learn from.”

Montás has served in public safety for 30 years, and he has been writing for equally as long. “Como El Agua” is just one example of the many ways Montás has managed to defy perceptions, branching out into many fields outside of public safety and making a positive cultural impact on the Dartmouth community.

“Perhaps there are only a few of us — although there are a few of us — who do this dual thing,” Montás said.

From his community involvement to his passion for tango and poetry, Montás has not only made the Dartmouth community a safer place but also a livelier one.