Nomination Period Opens for San Antonio’s Next Poet Laureate

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UTSA Professor of Transformative Children's Literature Carmen Tafolla.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Carmen Tafolla was San Antonio's first poet laureate, named 2012 by then-Mayor Julián Castro.

As the first major city in Texas to appoint an official poet laureate, San Antonio is a poetry trailblazer.

The City announced Monday that it is seeking nominations for the next poet to hold the two-year laureate position, for the 2018-2020 term. Nominations may be submitted by anyone, here, and are due Jan. 12, 2018.

The poet laureate program was established in 2012 under then Mayor Julián Castro, with the inaugural position held by Carmen Tafolla. Laurie Ann Guerrero and Jenny Browne have since followed with their own terms. After serving as San Antonio’s poet laureates, all three went on to become poets laureate of Texas.

That San Antonio has led the way for Texas “is proof of our commitment to the arts and honoring our city’s history and cultural heritage,” said Mayor Ron Nirenberg in a news release. Houston and McAllen have since established poet laureate positions.

“I am so pleased that our city moved forward proactively to make a statement about who and what we are,” Tafolla said, “and how our heritage and our reality deserve a strong poetic voice to sing our ambiente and our encanto.”

Those making nominations for the honor must write why they believe the poet merits the title and why “they are able to represent the city of San Antonio,” according to the news release. Once the nomination period closes, a panel of U.S. writers reviews the candidates, then recommends one for appointment by the mayor.

Along with biographical information, publishing history, and examples of previous work, nominations must specify the poet’s community involvement, which is an important function of the laureate’s tenure.

As part of their official duties, the poet laureate will develop “innovative and inspiring public events,” according to the City’s website, and appear at festivals, workshops, readings and other functions throughout the two-year term.

During her tenure, Browne has established the St. Anthony Lost & Found poetry exchange, which will culminate in a “multi-sensory exhibit” including poetry and art from the community, opening Jan. 25 at the Culture Commons Gallery at Plaza de Armas.

Browne’s St. Anthony project asks the city what it has lost, what it has found, where it’s been, and where it’s going. Tafolla’s first official poem as San Antonio Poet Laureate, written in 2012, could also be said to address the city’s vision of its future self, as promoted first by Castro’s Decade of Downtown, and by SA2020 and the Tricentennial celebration.

A stanza from Tafolla’s poem, titled DO IT, ends with the lines:

“Build it, Dream It, See it –

Big.

Clean.

Smart.”

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