Voices rising from the desert

  • Writing the Southwest cover

  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.
–Rudolfo Anaya



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 Tapahonso.

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
320 pages, 74 minute CD, paperback: $17.95.
University of New Mexico Press, 2003.
High Country News Classifieds
  • CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE - OKANOGAN LAND TRUST (NORTH CENTRAL WA)
    Do you enjoy rural living, wild places, and the chance to work with many different kinds of people and accomplish big conservation outcomes? Do you...
  • CARDIGAN WELSH CORGIS
    10 adorable, healthy puppies for sale. 4 males and 6 females. DM and PRA clear. Excellent pedigree from champion lineage. One Red Brindle male. The...
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • DIGITAL ADVOCACY & MEMBERSHIP MANAGER
    The Digital Advocacy & Membership Manager will be responsible for creating and delivering compelling, engaging digital content to Guardians members, email activists, and social media...
  • DIGITAL OUTREACH COORDINATOR, ARIZONA
    Job Title: Digital Outreach Coordinator, Arizona Position Location: Phoenix or Tucson, AZ Status: Salaried Job ID Number: 52198 We are looking for you! We are...
  • DESCHUTES LAND TRUST VOLUNTEER PROGRAM MANAGER
    The Deschutes Land Trust is seeking an experienced Volunteer Program Manager to join its dedicated team! Deschutes Land Trust conserves and cares for the lands...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator who is passionate about conservation and...
  • INDIAN COUNTRY FELLOWSHIP
    Western Leaders Network is accepting applications for its paid, part-time, 6-month fellowship. Mentorship, training, and engaging tribal leaders in advancing conservation initiatives and climate policy....
  • MULESHOE RANCH PRESERVE MANAGER
    The Muleshoe Ranch Preserve Manager develops, manages, and advances conservation programs, plans and methods for large-scale geographic areas. The Muleshoe Ranch Cooperative Management Area (MRCMA)...
  • ARTEMIS PROGRAM MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF or Federation) is America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 52 state/territorial affiliates and more...
  • ASSISTANT OR ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL HUMANITIES
    Assistant or Associate Professor of Environmental Humanities Whitman College The Environmental Humanities Program at Whitman College seeks candidates for a tenure-track position beginning August 2023...
  • ANNUAL FUND MANAGER
    Working closely with the Foundation's leadership, the Annual Fund Manager is responsible for the oversight and management of the Foundation's annual operating fund. This is...
  • DATABASE ADMINISTRATOR
    Looking for someone who loves public land and understands the value and importance of data in reaching shared goals as part of a high-functioning team....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA) in Crested Butte, CO is seeking an enthusiastic Executive Director who is passionate about the public lands, natural waters and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS
    Are you passionate about connecting people to the outdoors? The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is looking for someone with volunteer management experience to join...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The conservation non-profit Invasive Species Action Network seeks an executive director. We are focused on preventing the human-caused spread of invasive species by promoting voluntary...
  • NEW BOOK: A FEAST OF ECSTATIC VERSE AND IMAGERY
    Dynamic fine art photographer offers use of images to raise funds. Available for use by conservation groups. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com.
  • WANTED: TALENTED WRITER
    Write the introduction to A Feast of Ecstatic Verse and Imagery, a book concerning nature and spirituality. Contact at www.anecstaticgathering.com. Writer who works for conservation/nature...
  • MT STATE DIRECTOR- THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY
    The Montana State Director is a member of The Wilderness Society's (TWS) Conservation program team who plays a leading role in advancing the organization's mission...
  • HIGH COUNTRY NEWS EDITORIAL INTERNS
    High Country News, an award-winning magazine covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, is looking for its next cohort of editorial interns....