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Know the West

Forty-four years of poetry from the Land of Enchantment


I’m engaged to New Mexico. I’ve been engaged for eighteen years.
I’ve worn its ring of rainbow set with a mica shard.
I’ve given my dowry already, my skin texture, my hair moisture.
I’ve given New Mexico my back-East manners, my eyesight,
The arches of my feet. New Mexico’s a difficult fiancé.
—excerpt from "Something Like Marriage" by Joan Logghe

The editors of a new book, In Company, hope to reveal New Mexico’s poets to the rest of the world, while at the same time uniting the disparate communities of poets within the state. As editor Lee Bartlett writes in the introduction, "(A)ll too often writers in Santa Fe or Taos seem willfully oblivious to much of the scene in Albuquerque, and poets in Albuquerque seem intent on returning the favor. It goes without saying, we suppose, that poets in all these areas generally seem to work hard at being equally oblivious to what is happening with poets in Las Cruces, or Silver City, or Roswell, or on ‘the Rez.’ "

The poems collected here run the gamut of history and culture: Rudolfo Anaya rewrites the Egyptian tale of Isis and Osiris to take place in the Jemez Mountains; Simon Ortiz relates how power lines and railroads raced across Indian Country; Bobby Byrd tells how he "slipped down to Bobby Favela’s house and shot him in the side of the head with a poem."

From N. Scott Momaday, one of the state’s most recognizable American Indian voices, to Lisa Gill, a diva of the Albuquerque slam scene, the book showcases those whose voices rise in stanzas from red dirt, crystalline skies and hoodoos in the badlands. Anyone who has greeted desert rain knows exactly what Joy Harjo means in her poem "Rainy Dawn": That day so hot, heat danced in waves off / bright car tops, we both stood poised at that door from the east, listened / for a long time to the sound of our grandmothers’ voices, the brushing / wind of sacred wings, the rattle of raindrops in dry gourds.

Whether you’re a native or an interloper, the voices in this volume will make you feel at home.

In Company: An Anthology of New Mexico Poets after 1960
Edited by Lee Bartlett, V.B. Price and Dianne Edenfield Edwards
542 pages, hardcover $34.95.
University of New Mexico Press, 2004.