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Fronteras: 'Her work will last' — Former Texas Poet Laureate Rosemary Catacalos is remembered by the people she touched

Rosemary Catacalos, one of San Antonio’s fiercest literary voices, died — or “transitioned,” as she preferred to say — on June 17. She was 78.

Catacalos was the first Latina to serve as Texas Poet Laureate (2013-2014).

Her works include the collection Again for the First Time (1984) and Sing the ¡!, a collection that will be published posthumously.

But Catacalos wasn’t just a poet. She served as executive director of San Antonio-based writing center, Gemini Ink, and was regarded by many as an advocate for the arts.

Catacalos’ legacy as both a writer and a person is measured by the friends and colleagues she leaves behind.

Although Catacalos’ friends each have their own unique memories with the late poet, they all agreed on the thing that stood out about her the most: her voice.

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Clockwise, starting from the top left: San Antonio Express-News columnist Cary Clack. Credit: Courtesy of Cary Clack; Poet Naomi Shihab Nye. Courtesy of Naomi Shihab Nye; Former San Antonio and State Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla. Credit: Norma Martinez / Texas Public Radio; Alexandra van de kamp, Executive Director of Gemini Ink. Credit: William Glenn; Jazz musician Bett Butler. Credit: Bett Butler; Poet, educator and arts administrator Jim LaVilla-Havelin. Credit: Courtesy of Jim LaVilla-Havelin.

Poet, educator, and coordinator for National Poetry Month in San Antonio, Jim LaVilla-Havelin, is one of Catacalos’ close friends. He remembers the fierceness of her voice.

“It took long lines — which on the page sometimes look hard to manage — and opened them up and gave them all of the heart that she brought to all the work she did,” he said.

Catacalos’ fierce character and spirit is also a consensus among her friends.

Fellow state Poet Laureate Carmen Tafolla knew Catacalos for nearly 50 years. She said there was no one like her.

“She always stood out,” Tafolla said. “She was like this sweet and sour lemon tree. She was full of laughter.”

Other voices on today’s program include:

Visit Bett Butler’s tribute to Catacalos at the Caring Bridges website.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Marian Navarro produces for Texas Public Radio's Morning Edition and Fronteras.