To celebrate National Poetry Month, Our Lady of the Lake University hosted A Night of Poetry, a reception and visual poem exhibit on April 4 to honor Dr. Octavio Quintanilla as he celebrated his first full year as San Antonio’s fourth Poet Laureate. Appointed by the poetry community and the mayor of San Antonio, the Poet Laureate is an honorary position of two years that promotes and celebrates poetry to the community and beyond by creating public events and programs with local organizations and the Department of Arts and Culture. Poet Laureates are expected to make appearances, attend events, read and share their works and come up with a Legacy Project – a project that encapsulates the Poet Laureate’s vision of poetry. Dr. Quintanilla was appointed to the position in March 2018.
The event included Dr. Quintanilla reading several poems from his first book, “If I Go Missing” which was published in 2014 after spending six years on writing and editing. He also shared his FRONTEXTOS (the term frontexto is a blend of frontera and texto, border/text), a project he started on New Year’s Day of 2018 as a way to challenge himself every day to make time to write and produce art which he would publish on his social medias. Dr. Quintanilla also reflected on his first year as Poet Laureate, discussing traveling, reading at local events and schools, and his work in progress Legacy Project. Quintanilla’s visual poem exhibit was open to the public and OLLU community and showcased framed original FRONTEXTOS.
“My inspirations for my poems and art are basic, that is the human condition. My surroundings, the natural world, our emotional landscape, and other writers and artists,” Quintanilla said. Latin- American poetry has also been a main inspiration for his works. “I have always needed a creative outlet. What got me into writing was my sense of introspection, my inwardness, and a need to communicate not just with myself but with the world outside of me.”
Having lived in Mexico for nine years after being born in Harligen, Texas, Dr. Quintanilla writes in Spanish, a language he is fluent and grew up with, but feels like he still needs to improve his native tongue. Writing in Spanish symbolizes a political stance against anti-immigrant issues since people are discriminated and attacked for speaking languages other than English in the United States. Writing and speaking Spanish is a way of resisting, and FRONTEXTOS are all written in Spanish.
Dr. Quintanilla’s works have appeared and/or are appearing in journals such as Salamander, RHINO, Alaska Quarterly Review, Pilgrimage, Green Mountains Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Texas Observer, Existere: A Journal of Art & Literature and elsewhere. His visual works have been featured at theAllState Almaguer Art Gallery in Mission, TX and “Frontextos: A Return Home” at The Weslaco Museum, with exhibits coming at Platform 204 Gallery & Studios in Harlingen, TX and Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos.
Dr. Quintanilla is currently working on his second manuscript which will be a poetry memoir. “My favorite poem that I ever wrote at this point is called, “Party” a poem about the San Antonio location and separation between a son and his parents,” Quintanilla said. “This poem will be featuring in my new manuscript and will probably be one of the main poems.”
Dr. Quintanilla holds a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. He began teaching in the MA/MFA program at OLLU in the Fall of 2013. Dr. Quintanilla currently teaches two Introduction to Poetry and Drama classes for undergraduate students here at OLLU. In Fall 2019 he will be teaching a Poetry Workshop course for graduate students as well as an Introduction to Poetry and Drama class for undergrads. He will also be teaching an online section of Introduction to Poetry and Drama this summer.
To follow Dr. Quintanilla’s publications, visit his website: www.octavioquintanilla.com or follow his Twitter: @OctQuintanilla and Instagram: @writeroctavioquintanilla