Poetry Cake, a Short History, and Comments by Everett Campbell

of the poetry scene in Albuquerque . . . this appeared in Albuquerque’s Weekly Alibi April 15-21, 2010),

All this wonderful verbal poetry activity Albuquerque enjoys is the icing on the cake that came before it. In coffeehouses like the Purple Turk across from Johnson Gym, Louis Greenfield’s Bookstore & Coffeehouse downtown, The Grave near Old Town, poetry readings started to pop up here in Albuquerque following the San Francisco Renaissance late 50’s. The University reading performances such as Allen Ginsberg in the Anthropology Hall packed to the ceiling energized young poets. Robert Creeley teaching at UNM was a magnet for poets as was his home in Placitas visited constantly by major poets crossing the country. Bookstores – the Yale Street Grasshopper run by Phil Mayne which turned into the Living Batch Bookstore, Salt of the Earth & Full Circle Bookstores – featured almost endless readings & gatherings.

Yale Street Grasshopper, move from Yale Street to Central, 1970, dropping “Yale Street” and becoming Phil Mayne’s Grasshopper Books. But then with new owners, the Ellistons, the store became the Living Batch (from a line in Ed Dorn’s Gunslinger) . . .

Poets in the Schools run by Stan Noyes in Santa Fe paid poets to read & teach across the state. Randall Ackley & others organized Southwest Poetry Festivals in Durango, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs & Santa Fe giving voice to some of the first Native American & Hispanic poets. The Rio Grande Writers Association with Rudy & Patricia Anaya, Keith Wilson, Bobby Byrd, Diana Huntress & many others gave us newsletters & readings state-wide & tried to distribute our books nationwide. Marge Neset organized Downtown Saturday Night festivals where the RGWA set up a coffeehouse in the old Strombergs Shoe building corner of 2nd & Central and sold beer out front so we could pay over fifty poets to read inside – a few at a time! And Albuquerque United Artists formed performance festivals and readings in the AUA gallery downtown in abandoned storefronts and at the Kimo Theater.

The poet as publisher movement I was a part of realized if anybody was going to publish us we would have to publish each other & we did. Voices from the Rio Grande (1976) was one of several great anthologies as well as The Indian Rio Grande (1977). The much later New Mexico Poetry Renaissance (1994) also gave voice to these poets many of whom are still writing.

For pictures and comments concerning these poets please check out my Poet & Artist Friends Album on Facebook. http://on.fb.me/xeLlt0

In Company, an Anthology of New Mexico Poets after 1960, UNM Press 2004, gathers numerous poems (540 pages) yes . . .

Here are Dr. Everett Campbell’s comments in response to the Alibi article. 

John Randle of Salt of the Earth on Central in Albuquerque introducing . . .

Everett Campbell: It came to me, David Hale was the owner of the Purple Turk Coffee house across the street from UNM on Central.

Greenfield’s became known as Tom Davies, later sold as a book store to Eric Patterson . . . who now has the Tom Davies Bookstore (if it is still there) on Central near Nob Hill.

. . . What about Old Town? That was a kind of bohemian hangout in those days. There may have been other poetry readings there.

. . . then there was The Grave down by Old Town —later shut down after someone got shot there

. . . then the SUB (at UNM) had open mike nights and readings during the 60’s; don’t forget the Bicentative next to the Living Batch (Bruce Fergusson ran that). Later the Torta where Drum (Hadley) read in ’77.

And also there was that place out on north fourth street that had Sunday afternoon readings—there were benches and jug wine (near the Motel gallery maybe?)—and of course there were readings at the Batch (usually out of town folks like Gary Snyder or Drum).

Two other memories: Downtown Saturday Night series 1978 or so ( [Bill] Bingham and Keith [Wilson] were on the same docket one night) and the place next to University Drug Store called “the Ugly Club” —most folk singers but some poetry readings (opened and closed from 1995-66. It is Pericos Tacos now). — Everett Campbell

Thanks, Everett. I have no memory of the “Bicentative” and I was with the Living Batch for many years.  Bill Bingham was a pronounced reader/poet/writer of those times, putting out numerous LP records of his reading and going into bookstores and surreptitiously putting his books on the shelves just so they would be there! I remember hearing Bill Bingham at the Purple Turk with the room full of large wooden spools used for tables . . . lg

Robert Creeley being introduced by Gus Blaisdell of the Living Batch . . . ’83


Any comments about poetry readings years back in Albuquerque? please respond!


About larry goodell

Poet exploring his viable extensions - publisher, performer, playwright - hand to hand help in creating spaces for poetry to be live in - reading events, recordings, online and tangible publications in the vocal spirit of his New Mexico.
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