John Crawford is spearhead, editor, publisher of West End Press, with now over 25 titles, which, along with La Alameda Books, is riding high as Albuquerque’s most important publishers of poetry. And there’s Mercury Heartlink and others in this burgeoning atmosphere. For a periodical the full range Malpais Review is dedicated to poetry, adventurously so. And the roots go back including the publications and communicative energy of the Rio Grande Writers Association.
Larry, I just read the article and extended treatment in Malpais and
was very glad to study it carefully. As you know, I wasn’t much of a
supporter of what was left of the RGWA after I arrived here in 1985.
In a real sense, I was short-sighted. I simply saw a lot of well-intentioned
white males with a few adopted indigenous writers struggling on when
a whole new movement was happening. I care for many of the individuals
of the earlier group, including of course Joy and Rudi. And I’ve tried to
support what has followed them, particularly women of color, with my
own work of publication. But this history, written by yourself and others,
is important to me as well and a real corrective in some respects to my
own thinking. So I guess I’m saying, thank you for being you, and many
thanks to Gary for his clarity, intelligence, and sensitivity to history.
There’s much left to do. We’re only beginning.
Good to hear from you John,
The very first major activity of RGWA was a groundbreaking festival which produced Voices of the Rio Grande (1976) including, among others, Joy Harjo, E.A. Mares, Leroy Quintana, Harold Littlebird, Rudolfo Anaya, and soon to follow, muchly an outgrowth of that the very next year, The Indian Rio Grande: Leo Romero, Ricardo Sanchez, Arthur Sze, Patricia Clark Smith, Leslie Silko, Joseph Somoza, Denise Chavez, Enrique R. Lamadrid, and David Apodaca. Jose Armas, Geary Hobson and William Oandasan were part of RGWA by the late 70’s.The Downtown Saturday Night readings (1978-79), sponsored by RGWA, brought in Doris Fields Holbrook (the second Afro American poet to read in Albuquerque that I’m aware of), Paula Gunn Allen, Marcela Aguilar, Cecelio Garcia-Amarillo, Jaime Chavez, Roberto Sandoval, Simon Ortiz and Ron Rogers. (As far as I know the first Afro-American poet to be published in New Mexico was Frederick Ward in 1966 who had been a student of Oscar Peterson, moved to Albuquerque and started writing poetry and giving readings, published by my duende press. Correct me if I’m wrong about this.)
The Experimental Performance Festival of 1981, tho organized by Albuquerque United Artists, we from RGWA brought in Luci Tapahonso and Laura Tohe. And RGWA’s 1983 Rio Grande Poets & Writers Festival brought in Joy, Doris, Jimmy Gonzales, Tony and Luci.
The Southwest Poetry Festivals, as I indicated, organized mainly by Randall Achley back in 1975 or so, opened doors to many Hispanics and Native Americans (that’s where I met and grew to admire Ricardo Sanchez) . . . at one reading there was a parade of young Native American poet/students and the parties we had were about as cross fertilized as any event can be. Memorable and groundbreaking, including the music we danced to.
But you are right that when you got here the excitement of a diversified and productive organization, almost always led and energized by Rudy & Patricia Anaya, was waning. I am so fortunate to have been an active part of the phenomenon and I’m truly grateful.
So it is great that you could build on the emergent energies and publish the books you have offered and present the showcase of work you offer. Certainly a flowering for all time.
I’ll send you Fred Ward’s book if you’d like. Tho it’s mimeo it’s still a book!