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Weekly Alibi Burque's Best Unpublished Writing

Catch: Poems and Stories from Albuquerque

By Blake de Pastino

July 14, 1997:  (Catch is the new anthology of local writing, sponsored by Oddfellow Publishing and Weekly Alibi. The following is an excerpt from the preface, by Weekly Alibi's Arts & Literature Editor.)

I'll bet there's nothing I could tell you about Albuquerque's writers that you didn't already know. Or that you couldn't learn for yourself. Albuquerque is uniquely democratic that way--graceless, sincere, almost hostile to the differences that, in other cities, would separate the everyday from the literary. Here, we know our town's writers the way we know the boulevards that dissect Central: Jimmy Santiago Baca, Rudolfo Anaya, Joy Harjo, the list rolls on. And we know those writers we'd like to claim--the ones who used to live here but left--the way we remember landmarks that have vanished from our streets: Leslie Marmon Silko, Paula Gunn Allen, Ana Castillo. Even if we haven't read all of their work, their names seem friendly and familiar to us. And we're somehow proud to know that they lived here, as if we had something to do with their success.

But it's tempting to wonder how the writers see the city in return. That's an important question as any, especially in a community of our size that prizes its writers so. In a town that's all parking lots and neon, all long drives through short distances, all history that is remembered one house at a time, what do poets and novelists see when they look down the street? In the fall of 1996, I put that question to a few local writers. Their answers appeared in an issue of Weekly Alibi called "Writing Burque." And on the whole, their responses all had one thing in common. They said that we had freedom. A lack of pretense. An unstudied, particular, almost churlish sense of ourselves. An atmosphere about us that could stimulate even a block-hardened writer, without dictating--as some larger cities do--what it means to write a city and its people.

Catch was established to let other people share that sense of freedom--for all it's worth. After all, there is lots of talent out there that can contribute to this ongoing project that is writing Burque. Uncounted stories are yet to be told. Images crafted. Stupid things done. The only catch was that we wanted unpublished works, preferably by unpublished writers. More new voices, we believe, can map out more new features on our city's literary scene. In effect, we asked the city to write itself. It seemed only democratic that way.

What you'll find in Catch is the result. Albuquerque's best unpublished writing, brought to print for the first time. Poems and stories, ranging from the simply promising to the highly finessed, the deeply personal to the avowedly political. Some of these pieces reflect the many faces of Albuquerque itself, while others give life to the ideas and feelings of people who live here. Regardless of their relative successes, though, all of these writers have become part of something that seems rather noteworthy--this first anthology of its kind, crafted entirely by volunteers, from the authors themselves to the force behind Oddfellow Publishing, Michael Alan Brown. The book is a humble but undeniable part of Albuquerque's ever-lengthening literary history.

Lots of writers have written about Albuquerque, and most of them have done a pretty good job of it. But no one has really written Albuquerque yet, in the way that it deserves. Not in the way that Saul Bellow, say, has chronicled Chicago or that William Carlos Williams immortalized Paterson. Not in the way that Steinbeck paid homage to the valleys and tidepools of California. But maybe someone whose work is printed here will. Or maybe it will be done by someone reading this book. Of course, there's a hell of a lot more to a written work than just its setting. But with all its grittiness, confidence and giddy addiction to growth, Albuquerque seems to have enough in it to fill several books. I hope that this book is only one of many. (Oddfellow, paper, $5)

--Blake de Pastino

Meet the many authors of Catch on Tuesday, July 15 at 6 p.m. at Tulane Exchange, 111 Tulane SE. You'll find Catch for sale there, as well as at UNM Bookstore, Page One, Hastings Supercenter, Borders, Double Rainbow and Mind Over Matter.

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