I say the writers of the Southwest, we are like horses that have gone out on the llano and eaten locoweed, and madness is what is unique to us.
It’s one thing to read the printed words of your favorite
author; it’s quite another to actually hear his or her voice.
Almost 10 years ago, University of New Mexico professor David King
Dunaway produced "Writing the Southwest," a radio series featuring
Southwestern wordsmiths (HCN, 12/11/95: Southwestern writers hit
the airwaves), which was followed by a companion volume. Now, the
University of New Mexico Press has reissued Writing the Southwest,
an updated and expanded collection of interviews with 14 writers,
ranging from the late curmudgeon Ed Abbey to popular authors Tony
Hillerman and Terry McMillan to Navajo poet Luci
But the book is more than another rundown of
the same old biographical tidbits; instead, Dunaway and co-editor
Sara Spurgeon have woven interviews, literary excerpts, and
analyses of the writers’ influence on American literature
into the collection. The book also features a CD with excerpts from
the radio series, and it’s a treat to listen to the cadence
of the writers’ voices: Anaya’s trilling New Mexican
accent, Joy Harjo’s clipped Oklahoma words, Tapahonso’s
soft-spoken Navajo voice and Stan Steiner’s faded, but
audible, Brooklyn snap.
Beyond desert fetishes and canyon
addictions, an overriding theme is that of disenfranchised writers
seeking recognition from the East Coast publishing houses, while
remaining true to their own cultures and ideals: Harjo speaks of
what it’s like to not only be a female poet, but an Indian
one at that. Rudolfo Anaya, Denise Chavez and Alberto Rios speak of
their Spanish roots; John Nichols defends "political literature,"
and Simon Ortiz, an Acoma poet and professor, explains that he
writes his poetry for "that great mass of people who I think need
to be reaffirmed of their humanity. Kind of a tall order, but
what’s a poet for?"
You can also listen to the
Writing the Southwest radio series at www.unm.edu/~wrtgsw/.
Writing the Southwest
Edited by David King Dunaway and Sara Spurgeon
74 minute CD, paperback: $17.95.
University of New Mexico
Voices rising from the desert
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