Featured Artist: Octavio Quintanilla
Instagram @writeroctavioquintanilla | Twitter @OctQuintanilla
Octavio Quintanilla is the author of the poetry collection, If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014). His work has appeared in Salamander, RHINO, Alaska Quarterly Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Texas Observer, Texas Books in Review, and elsewhere. He is a CantoMundo Fellow and holds a PhD from the University of North Texas. He teaches Literature and Creative Writing in the MA/MFA program at Our Lady of the Lake University. An astonishing debut, If I Go Missing is timely, fearless, and necessary. In these poems, Octavio Quintanilla measures displacement with language and grapples with the longing to begin anew, to return to what was left unsaid, undone. Redemption is not always possible in the geography of these poems, but there is always a sense of hope. And by this pulse we are guided, the poet’s unmistakable voice that, finally, clears the way so we may find our bearing.
Octavio Quintanilla, an assistant professor at Our Lady of the Lake University, has been named the city’s fourth poet laureate.
Quintanilla, who teaches literature and creative writing at the West Side University, will be the city’s first male poet laureate. He’ll be officially appointed on April 3, when Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the city’s Department of Arts & Culture host a public investiture in the City Council Chambers in the Municipal Plaza Building.e:43
“As a world class city, San Antonio supports and fosters its creative and artistic communities — especially the many individuals who have committed their lives and work to preserving our city’s cultural legacy,” Nirenberg said in a statement. “Octavio is one of those committed individuals.”
The position of poet laureate is intended to promote public interest in and preservation of the art of poetry, and to celebrate the culture and history of San Antonio.
Born in in Harlingen, Quintanilla lived in Mexico until age 9. He graduated with Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Arts degrees in English from the University of Texas Pan American (now UT Rio Grande Valley) and earned his doctorate in literature and creative writing from the University of North Texas.
Author of the poetry collection “If I Go Missing” (Slough Press, 2014), Quintanilla has or will soon be published in Salamander, RHINO, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pilgrimage, Green Mountains Review and other poetry journals. In a telephone interview, he said he’s excited to have the opportunity to bring poetry to as many communities in the city as possible and also to be the first man to hold the position.
“I’m committed to helping to make poetry a part of our daily lives,” he said. “We’ve had three wonderful female poets come before me, and I hope to make them proud.”
In 2012, San Antonio became the first major Texas city to have a poet laureate when Carmen Tafolla was appointed to the two-year post. She was followed by Laurie Ann Guerrero and Jenny Browne. All three have gone on to serve as state poet laureate of Texas.
Quintanilla said he became interested in poetry in high school and that his first influences were the Romantics and poets taught as part of the public education curriculum. But as an undergraduate, he was exposed to more modern poets, including Jaime Sabines, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Ana Castillo, Julia de Burgos and Nicanor Parra, whose work touched him on a deeper level.
“I’d read them and feel like they knew things about me that I didn’t know myself,” he said. “I also loved the concision of the language, the beauty of it.
Since the first of the year, Quintanilla has challenged himself to write a handwritten poem a day — in Spanish — and to post them on his Facebook page. He also draws sketches to accompany the words and, depending on the writing, the sketches sometimes overpower the words or the words swamp the drawings.
He calls these poems “drafts” and said he hopes to go back and edit them. But for now the exercise “lifts the burden of having to write something that’s polished, something that’s complete,” he said. “It’s a good excuse to just write.”
| Twitter: @RichardMarini