The New Mexico Quarterly, perhaps best called a regional university little magazine, was begun by the University of New Mexico in 1931 and published thirty-eight volumes until it ended in 1969. The Quarterly went through six principal periods, alternating periods of regionalism with periods which tried other emphases. NMQ never found an editorial policy which was commercially successful, but its various policies almost always succeeded artistically. Further, the Quarterly's alterations are interesting responses to the literary, social and intellectual history of its time. Its birth, life, and death illustrate the changing nature of the University of New Mexico and, in part, the cultural changes of the state and of the United States.
For its first six issues, beginning February 1931, the New Mexico Quarterly was edited by Paul Walter, Jr. The remainder of NMQ's first period was directed by T. M. Pearce. The Quarterly began as "inspired very largely" by the Southwest Review, which had been since 1924 the only university literary magazine emphasizing Southwestern materials. Regionalism was an important trend in literary and cultural life during the 1930's; Pearce used New Mexican literature, history, and folklore to create the magazine's first and most enduring definition.
Pearce was succeeded in 1940 by Dudley Wynn, also a professor of English. In 1941, the Quarterly was combined with the New Mexico Business Review and took for the next nine years the name New Mexico Quarterly Review. Wynn used the magazine's increased size to create a second editorial policy which emphasized the humanities more than the Southwest. After he left in 1947, NMQ continued for a year under his assistant Ada Rutledge, poetry editor Alan Swallow, and acting editor Charles A. Allen.
The New Mexico Quarterly's second regional period (1949-1951) was defined by Joaquin Ortega, who secured the funds to begin paying contributors. With his associate and successor George Arms, Ortega directed the Quarterly to its highest achievement. Articles were stimulating, fiction won consistent honors from anthologists, and Edwin Honig's poetry section gave special prominence to one poet in each issue. Ortega's regional features included series on New Mexico authors and artists. The magazine became more attractive, for each issue was designed by Helen Gentry and illustrated by a New Mexico artist. Among these illustrators were Ernest Blumenschein, Howard Cook, Peter Hurd, Olive Rush, and John Sloan. In 1952, Kenneth Lash replaced the regional emphasis with one stressing new tendencies in international literature and art. Many of Lash's choices were exciting, but the University, which subsidized the magazine, preferred to see local material.
A third regional period began tentatively under Paul M. Sears in 1955 and was made definite under Roland Dickey (1956-1966). Dickey redesigned the Quarterly and revived its reputation for handsomeness. He selected traditional poetry and fiction and Southwestern articles, and he made NMQ's book section the largest since Wynn's editorship. Dickey was also director of the UNM Press and his resignation left the magazine on a somewhat uncertain course. NMQ continued for slightly more than two years without a paid editor, attempting to survive by publishing special issues, but in fact disintegrating as it reflected the tensions in the United States during the late 1960's.
The New Mexico Quarterly gave first or early publication to Norman Macleod, Jessamyn West, Thomas McGrath, Robert Creeley, Sherman Paul, N. Scott Momaday, and Amado Muro. In 1969, its changed university had neither volunteers for NMQ's editorship nor the desire to continue its annual subsidy of nearly $17,000. The Quarterly had lived through five vital periods. Made less useful by the development of a homogeneous national culture and of a local multiversity, it died.
Level of Degree
First Committee Member (Chair)
George Warren Arms
Second Committee Member
Joel M. Jones
Third Committee Member
Charles DeWayne Biebel
Pugh, David William. "A Study in Literary, Social, and University History: The Life and Often Hard Time of the New Mexico Quarterly, 1931-1969." (1975). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/amst_etds/108