David Johnson, a Founder, Founding RGWA

david johnson

David Johnson, from Voices of the Rio Grande, 1976, Photo by Jeff Buckels

Brief History: the founding of the Rio Grande Writers Association

At some point in the fall of 1975, several of us gathered at Rudy Anaya’s house and discussed the possibility of creating a New Mexico writers association that would coordinate and support the large number of writers in the region. Attending were: Rudy Anaya, Patricia Anaya, Gene Frumkin, me (David Johnson), and I believe, E. A. (Tony) Mares, and James Fisher. It was felt that the writing scene in New Mexico was not recognized by the presses and literary councils on the East Coast and that it was time to create and support writers, editors, teachers, and presses in the Southwest. It was the beginning of a huge literary renaissance. We planned the Rio Grande Writers Conference for April 22-25, 1976, as kick-off event for organizing the Rio Grande Writers Association. The program included readings by a long list of poets and fiction writers, forums, panel discussions, and social events; including a concluding symposium on women and writing. The first Board of Directors for the Association included: Rudy Anaya as president, Norman Zollinger as vice president; David Johnson as secretary, James Ruppert as treasurer, and board members: Stanley Noyes, Gene Frumkin, Karen McKinnon and James Fisher.

Chapters of the Rio Grande Writers Association were eventually created in Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Las Vegas, Artesia and El Paso. For a number of years, a convention was held annually.

Norman Zollinger became the second president of the Association in 1978 and David Johnson was the third in 1979. Gene Frumkin was president in 1980 and Patricia Anaya succeeded him in 1981. By then the RGWA had developed a number of worthwhile projects. The Rio Grande Writers Newsletter was created. The Association published a Directory of New Mexico Literary Sources in the fall of 1977. A more comprehensive edition came out 1980-1981. For a time there were dreams of creating Southwest Regional Print Center For several years, the Association published the Rio Grande Writers Quarterly. A distribution project called Southwest Literary Express and run by David Apodaca fell on hard times, until it was moved to Jerry Bradley and John Rothfork at New Mexico Tech. They also edited the New Mexico Humanities Review. 

The region was bustling with literature. A number of poetry magazines were being published or would shortly come into being. Larry Goodell edited the Duende Press and was the editor of Fervent Valley. Stanley Noyes published poetry in the New Mexico magazine. John Brandi managed the Tooth of Time Press. Women poets like Carolyn Maisel and Mary McGinnis created and edited Best Friends. Keith Wilson and Joe Somoza were the core of the writing program at NMSU Writing Center and the magazine Puerto del Sol. E.W. Tedlock published books of poetry with the San Marcos Press. Sunstone Press was in Santa Fe. New America was published by the American Studies Program at UNM. La Confluencia was edited by Patricia D’Andrea and Susan Dewitt. The Poetry-in-the-Schools program, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, was sending regional poets in numerous schools around the state. The New Mexico Independent, a lively weekly, began to run a literary page edited by Robert Gordon.


David Johnson

David Johnson

author of Rebirth of Wonder, Poems of the Common Life, UNM Press, 2007.

This piece lays down the origin of the Rio Grande Writers Association . . . for good! Thank you, David . . . By the way, I edited the poetry page for The New Mexico Independent, after Robert Gordon, until I parted ways with the paper’s editor, Mark Acuff, and his politics. Larry Goodell


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.
This entry was posted in live poetry, poetry, publication and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to David Johnson, a Founder, Founding RGWA

  1. Pingback: Rio Grande Writers Association 1976-1991 | lotsa, larry goodell

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