"For many, the literature of the American Southwest is frozen in amber, a scene out of Robert Sherwood's Petrified Forest, where a Villon spouting wanderer meets a desperado in a remote roadhouse. Yet the literary history of the Southwest is a dynamic, ever-changing fusion of the peoples who settled there and created its oral literature over the last ten millenia. In this volume, we set forth a representative selection of the region's literary riches.
By "Southwest" we refer primarily to Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico, states which share the Colorado Plateau, the upper Rio Grande valley, and the arid land surrounding it. This region is bounded, in literary historian Lawrence Powell's terms, by "the land east of the Rio Colorado, South of the Mesa Verde, West of the Pecos, and North of the border.
Like the folklore of its people, the literary history of the Southwest is carved from its unique geography, which allowed ethnically diverse communities to coexist. The tall ranges and deep valleys of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico separated Indians from Hispanics and Hispanics from Anglo settlements. The Southwest's great rivers (the Colorado and Rio Grande and their tributaries) have always determined the settlement of the region, its commerce, and its demography: in New Mexico alone, 80% of the state's population lives within 30 miles of the Rio Grande.
Riding over the smooth asphalt of the interstates today, it's easy to forget that territories such as Arizona and New Mexico have been states for less than 90 years. This juxtaposition of ancient and modern, the fact that traditional cultures have maintained much of their histories and customs into a technological age, has given the American Southwest a literature unlike any other."