Fronteras: San Antonio Poet Laureate Octavio Quintanilla On Poetry, Loss And Recovery | Texas Public Radio

Fronteras: San Antonio Poet Laureate Octavio Quintanilla On Poetry, Loss And Recovery

Mar 13, 2020

Poet Laureates are government-appointed figures whose voices not only promote poetry, but often reflect and speak to the current sentiment of the country. In 2012, San Antonio became the first Texas city to name its own poet laureate.

The city’s current Poet Laureate, Octavio Quintanilla, wraps up his two-year term this year.

Past San Antonio Poet Laureates include Carmen Tafolla, Laurie Ann Guerrero and Jenny Browne. The city mulled through applications over the last several weeks, before selecting Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson as the fifth poet laureate. The appointment came just in time for National Poetry Month in April.

Quintanilla, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Our Lady of the Lake University, reminisced on the day he heard the news of his appointment. “The city's full of wonderful poets,” he said. “So, I was very surprised that I was selected.”

Since his appointment, Quintanilla has hosted and participated in various poetry events — including dozens of poetry readings, keynote speeches, editorial boards and classrooms visits throughout the city.

He said he’s embraced his appointment as an opportunity, not only to represent the community, but also represent this art of writing that's often misunderstood. 

“That was part of my commitment,” Quintanilla said, "to go out and celebrate the written word and our oral stories and all those things that humanize us.”

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

Quintanilla released his first collection of poetry in 2014, “If I Go Missing.” His poetry, fiction, translations, and photography have appeared in numerous journals, including The Texas Observer, Southwestern American Literature and RHINO.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1 and Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter @terrazas_lauren.