Borderlands founders met through graduate poetry workshops at the University of Texas at Austin. The Gulf War triggered an awareness that the poetry we had been trained to read and write had little connection with the social and political realities that impinge on our personal, private lives. We began to look for a different kind of poetry.
We decided to establish a journal with an outward-looking approach. We also decided to give the journal a strong regional slant because poets living in the southwest faced disadvantages in establishing themselves, largely due to the relative lack of outlets in the region. We also wanted to address Texas’ increasingly multicultural population, so we proposed giving space to bilingual poets, printing a poem in its original language and, on the facing page, the poet’s English translation.
Fortunately, the Texas Commission on the Arts and the City of Austin Cultural Contracts office agreed with our concerns and provided partial funding; we raised additional funds.
Many well-known Texas poets, among them Walter McDonald, Pattiann Rogers, James Ulmer, and Naomi Shihab Nye, responded to our requests for submissions and contributions. From outside the region, William Stafford and David Romtvedt sent poems and supportive letters. Houston artist James Surls agreed to let us use without charge one of his prints as a cover design.
In November 1992, we published our first issue, launched it with a reading by Texas poets, and distributed it in 20 states.