By Angela Covo
La Prensa San Antonio
SAN ANTONIO — Introducing another first for the city of San Antonio, Mayor Julian Castro announced the city is seeking nominations for the position of a poet laureate, which comes with an honorarium of $3000. The position is an honorary one, designed to promote the literary arts and literacy in the community.
According to a written statement from the city, the concept of the poet laureate dates back to the 1600s and originated in England. The title itself is derived from the tradition of the ancient Greeks, who would crown an artist for significant achievements in public life, the arts and literature with a crown of laurel.
San Antonio will be the first major city in Texas to sponsor such a role, but its national counterpart, the U.S. Poet Laureate, was established in 1937, and many U.S. cities have a poet laureate program.
In fact, the state has had a Poet Laureate since 1932, but the Alamo City would be the first major city in Texas to implement such a program.
The selected candidate will be asked to serve a two-year term and attend a minimum of three city-sponsored and public events. The new Poet Laureate would also be expected to assist in “celebrating and inspiring reading and writing poetry in our community.”
Nominations must be submitted online no later than Jan. 18 – and there are specific criteria detailing eligibility. All the information is available at www.sahearts.org.
During the announcement at Bonham Academy on Nov. 18, the poet Carmen Tafolla read a very moving piece of her own about San Antonio. The school librarian, Rebecca Balderas, said she was moved to tears.
Balderas was very enthusiastic about the new program, and said the children truly enjoyed the Mayor’s visit to the school.
“The children kept coming by and peeking in – they know who their mayor is,” she added.
During the announcement, Clare Eastman, 3rd grade, Mari sol Cortex, 4th grade also read poetry.
Felix Padron, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, was also on hand to introduce the honorary Chair of the selection committee, Rosemary Catacalos, the executive director of Gemini Ink and a published, award winning poet whose work has been selected twice for Best American Poetry – an anthology published annually by Scribner.
“The life and vibrancy of a city is best told through poetry,” Castro said. Through this competition we can showcase the wonderful literary talent that makes San Antonio a special place.”
All the nominations will be reviewed by the City’s Office of Cultural Affairs to ensure they are complete. Incomplete nominations will not be considered.
“One of our nation’s greatest poets, Maya Angelou, once said it takes the ‘human voice to infuse words with a deeper meaning.’ We hope that through the inaugural San Antonio Poet Laureate selection, a poet is identified whose voice speaks to the depth of our city’s rich identity and inspires a greater understanding of our past, present and future,” Padron added.