In Company: An Anthology of New Mexico Poets After 1960Lee Bartlett, V.B. Price and Dianne Edenfield Edwards
(UNM Press · hardcover · $34.95)
In looking over In Company: An Anthology of New Mexico Poets After 1960 what strikes me most is not the poems, or even the all-star line up, but the poets who are missing. Since I am an award-winning poet, host of a monthly reading for five years, award-winning producer of a spoken word/poetry radio show for four years and resident of Albuquerque for 13 years, some of my dismay is personal. Ever since I heard about the book's release, my indignation has been building. But now, with the actual book, I'm incredulous, and my ire is aimed squarely at the editors: Lee Bartlett, V.B. Price and Dianne Edenfield Edwards. I smell a rat.
Given that space was obviously not a consideration (the book is over 500 pages long), I would have anthologized all of their poets and included a few more names to truly represent the diversity of poetry being produced in New Mexico. This would have required a phone call, an e-mail, a posted flyer and an occasional stepping out of the UNM office and into a dimly lit coffee shop or bar. When a project takes over three years to come together, getting a variety of poets is not hard, and I know compiling a large anthology is a big undertaking. The point is the editors could have very easily anthologized more poets with fewer poems each.
Likewise, the poets not included, particularly in Albuquerque, suggest a complete obliviousness to a segment that practices their craft outside the University. The lack of many poets suggests there is more than obliviousness at work. Where are Levi Romero, Lee Francis, Maria Leyba, Greg Glazner and Kell Robertson? Implying that the book represents poets whose work is "familiar only to audiences who frequent coffee houses and poetry slams" while leaving out Juliette Torres and Matthew John Conley (who brought Slam to Albuquerque) illustrates that representing performance poetry was not high on the editors' agenda. Where are Danny Solis, Bob Swearingen, Dale Harris, Richard Bodner, Bob Reeves, Sarah McKinistry-Brown, Mark Weber, Todd Moore, Kenn Rodriguez, etc.?
Contacting each and every poet who deserved inclusion might have delayed the project even more, but suggesting that this is a complete collection when many of the poets are, or were, "...connected to one or the other program [UNM and NMSU's Creative Writing Program]" implies that New Mexico poetry orbits around our two big state schools, which is simply not true.
I am thankful to the editors for assembling this incomplete collection. Hopefully, armed with an open mind, the editors can find their way out of their cluttered offices and into a coffee shop, bar, school, YMCA, community center or detention center where many poets, though not firmly entrenched in academia, have made a vital impact on poetry in New Mexico. Perhaps they will discover a poetry community that is much larger and more diverse than the institution in which they work.