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Frontera Is a Literary Festival in the Front, Party in the Back

Greg Brownderville wants Dallas to let its hair down at Frontera.
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Greg Brownderville Frontera
Brownderville, poet and editor of the Southwest Review, is the driving force behind a fresh local take on the literary arts. Courtesy

To get the vibe of Dallas’ newest festival, Frontera, consider two of its progenitors, one on paper and the other in person. First up is SMU’s Southwest Review. Founded in 1915, it has published the work of Tennessee Williams and Saul Bellow and claims to be the third-longest-running literary quarterly in the United States (raising the question of exactly how many literary quarterlies exist in the United States). In the flesh is Southwest Review’s editor, Greg Brownderville, an SMU English professor and poet from Pumpkin Bend, Arkansas, where his father was a funeral home director. Also, Brownderville is the lead singer in a band called Beekeeper Spaceman. 

“A lot of lit journals, they present themselves in such a way to make reading feel like homework,” Brownderville says. “I’m not throwing shade. It’s just the environment in which the literature is situated is not particularly alluring. I thought, well, you know, my friends in the arts worlds that I move in are all fun and hip. We can make a magazine feel like that. Let’s keep the poetry, the fiction, the narrative nonfiction that have made Southwest Review famous in the literary world. But let’s also write about music and write about film and publish work by comics artists and create a party on the page. That’s really what Frontera is like: if this magazine came to life on the streets of Dallas and Bishop Arts. What would that look like?”

It would look like the writer Barry Gifford coming to town for a Texas Theatre screening of Wild at Heart, which he and David Lynch adapted from Gifford’s 1990 novel of the same title. It would look like “phantom readings” done at Wild Detectives, original works created just for the festival, read by their authors only that once and never published in any form ever again. It would look like—or sound like—a performance by the rowdy Bass Drum of Death.

“We’re hoping this will inspire people to perk up and listen,” he says. “So even the literary part of this can be something unusual and not feel like you’re taking one for the team to go to a literary event. It’s a festival of culture. It’s music and comics and film and literature, and it’s out on the streets of Dallas. It’s not this, you know, come to our campus and get confused for 30 minutes about where to park.”

Though, to be honest, parking in Bishop Arts presents its own challenges. 


This story originally appeared in the April issue of D Magazine with the headline “Literary Festival in Front, Party in the Back.” Write to [email protected].

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…
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