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In Search Of San Antonio's Next Poet Laureate

Courtesy of Octavio Quintailla
Octavio Quintanilla, San Antonio Poet Laureate 2018-2020.

Pursue the preservation of poetry through education. Inspire established and emerging generations of literary artists and readers. Celebrate the literary voices of the San Antonio community. These are a few of the expectations of the San Antonio Poet Laureate. 

Every two years, a poet is chosen to fulfill these expectations as the ambassador for poetry and the literary arts in San Antonio. In 2012, San Antonio became the first major city in Texas to create this local appointment.

Credit City of San Antonio

Since then, four poets have held the honor: Carmen Tafolla, Jenny Browne, Laurie Ann Guerrero and Octavio Quintanilla. Now, the city is looking  for its fifth poet laureate.

Quintanilla, an associate professor at Our Lady of the Lake University’s College of Arts and Sciences, is the latest in a line of San Antonio Poet Laureates. His two-year term comes to a close this year.

He said one of the perks of the poet laureateship was visiting schools and sharing the art of poetry.

“And to represent not only my community,” Quintanilla said, “but also represent an art that's often misunderstood or people don't give it a chance to understand. And that was part of my commitment — to go out and celebrate the written word and our oral stories and all those things that humanize us.”

Credit Courtesy of Octavio Quintanilla

The Rio Grande Valley native has used his appointment to expand his FRONTEXTO project, which began in 2018, the first year of his poet laureateship. He blends illustrations with poetry to explore the relationship between text and imagery. He shares those posts on social media.

“In the first FRONTEXTO, I doodled,” Quintanilla said. “I think it was like a snail and some stars. And I liked it. And I kept the erasures, the scratching out, the blackouts where I was correcting myself and [editing] myself. I liked that. So now I'm going on year three.”

The poet laureateship is open to any San Antonio poet who meets certain criteria, including publication, proof of San Antonio residency of at least three years and a history of activity within the local arts community.

The nomination deadline for San Antonio’s next poet laureate is Friday, Jan. 31. Nomination forms are online at GetCreativeSanAntonio.com.

The April 1 appointment will come in time for National Poetry Month.

Norma Martinez can be reached by email at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1