Image of Octavio Quintanilla

Photo courtesy of Octavio Quintanilla

Getting to know the city’s new poet laureate.

 

The world awakens inspiration: sounds, colors, textures. All three come together to help San Antonio poet laureate Octavio Quintanilla create his poetry. 

As San Antonio rings in three hundred years of history, the city has its first male poet laureate, the fourth poet laureate of San Antonio. 

Mayor Julián Castro appointed the first city poet laureate in 2012. Each poet laureate serves for two years. Quintanilla will serve from 2018-2020.

The craziness began after his April 3 appointment to his new position. Quintanilla’s name has been all over the San Antonio literary community as he beings hosting and attending various events fulfilling the requirments of his new title.  

“It was a surprise,” Quintanilla commented. “I didn’t expect it. I mean, I knew I had been nominated, but I also knew that many other great San Antonio poets would be nominated, too.” 

He continues on to say, “it doesn’t hit you till later when you are by yourself and think about what it means to be selected as the next San Antonio poet laureate. There is joy, but also a sense of responsibility about the work that lies ahead. What an honor to represent my city as poet Laureate.”

Once appointed, the goal of the poet laureate is to promote poetry and literacy around the city in partnership with local organizations and the department of arts and culture for the city. He or she is expected to attend a variety of events.

As an active professor at Our Lady of the Lake, Quintanilla has always wanted to teach literature and creative writing. He currently works as an assistant professor in the MA/MFA program at the university. “Nothing better than to work with supportive colleagues and brilliant students,” commented Quintanilla when asked about his work with students.  

The poet graduated with a B.A. and an M.A. from The University of Texas-Pan Am (now the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley) and earned his Ph.D at The University of North Texas. Quintanilla fondly remembers working with poets Steven Schneider, Bruce Bond and Corey Marks throughout his time in college. His collection “If I Go Missing” features many poems from his graduate school years.

 When asked what he is currently working on, Quintanilla responded, “I am working on my second collection of poems, a memoir and another collection of poems in Spanish. These last are visual poems where I combine text and image. I am also putting together an anthology of poets from the Rio Grande Valley.” 

“I really want to support the poetry communities we have in San Antonio.”

What is next for the new poetry superstar? 

“I really want to support the poetry communities we have in San Antonio.” San Antonio has an active literary community, and Quintanilla wants to create more safe spaces for poets and their works. “I will continue to do so by visiting schools, participating in literary events and supporting writers in the community as much as I can. My passion is not just reading and writing poetry, but also getting it the hands of people as much as possible.”

Creating poetry is a different process for every writer. Quintanilla uses his photography as a form of inspiration. It allows him to be more alert of his surroundings. Some of his poems combined text and images. 

“I definitely want to publish my second poetry manuscript in the next two years. It’s back-burnered for a while and it’s time I give it some attention.” The best advice he gave for upcoming writers, “Read. Write. Repeat.” 

With an active literary scene, Octavio Quintanilla is sure to bring exciting events that keep writers and poetry lovers interested. “We care about the literary arts. On any given night, you’ll find a literary event at one of our many higher-ed institutions, libraries, bookstores or bars. It’s becoming clear to me that, to San Antonians, any spot is good for a reading. The scene is vibrant. Never sleeps.” Here’s to more sleepless nights filled with great poetry and a supportive space for writers. 

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