Alibi V.19 No.15 • April 15-21, 2010 
Harold Littlebird, poet, story teller, potter, actor, from Voices from the Rio Grande, 1976.
Harold Littlebird, poet, story teller, potter, actor, from Voices from the Rio Grande, 1976.
(Photos in Voices by Lou Holmberg & Jeff Buckles)


Poetry Cake

A history of the poetry scene in Albuquerque

All this wonderful verbal poetry activity Albuquerque enjoys is the icing on the cake that came before it. In coffeehouses like the Purple Turk across from Johnson Gym, Louis Greenfield’s Bookstore & Coffeehouse downtown, The Grave near Old Town, poetry readings started to pop up here in Albuquerque following the San Francisco Renaissance late ’50s. The University reading performances such as Allen Ginsberg in the Anthropology Hall packed to the ceiling energized young poets. Robert Creeley teaching at UNM was a magnet for poets as was his home in Placitas visited constantly by major poets crossing the country. Bookstores—the Yale Street Grasshopper run by Phil Mayne which turned into the Living Batch Bookstore, Salt of the Earth & Full Circle Bookstores —featured almost endless readings & gatherings.

Poets in the Schools run by Stan Noyes in Santa Fe paid poets to read & teach across the state. Randall Ackley & others organized Southwest Poetry Festivals in Durango, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs & Santa Fe giving voice to some of the first Native American & Hispanic poets. The Rio Grande Writers Association with Rudy & Patricia Anaya, Keith Wilson, Bobby Byrd, Diana Huntress & many others gave us newsletters & readings state-wide & tried to distribute our books nationwide. Marge Neset organized Downtown Saturday Night festivals where the RGWA set up a coffeehouse in the old Strombergs Shoe building corner of 2nd & Central and sold beer out front so we could pay over fifty poets to read inside – a few at a time! And Albuquerque United Artists formed performance festivals and readings in the AUA gallery downtown in abandoned storefronts and at the Kimo Theater.

The poet as publisher movement I was a part of realized if anybody was going to publish us we would have to publish each other & we did. Voices from the Rio Grande (1976) was one of several great anthologies as well as The Indian Rio Grande (1977). The much later New Mexico Poetry Renaissance (1994) also gave voice to these poets many of whom are still writing.

For pictures and comments concerning these poets please check out my Poet & Artist Friends Album on Facebook. In Company, an Anthology of New Mexico Poets after 1960, UNM Press 2004, gathers numerous poems.