San Antonio’s multi-faceted poet laureate gets a multimedia outlet

Carmen4Bio-250pxSan Antonio Poet Laureate and Chicana author Carmen Tafolla’s work often explores the intersections of identity, culture and language, mixing Spanish with English and blurring academic knowledge and street wisdom.

It’s only fitting, then, that an innovative new website dedicated to sharing Tafolla’s poetry would employ multiple avenues and voices to help readers explore her words. The site features video performances of seven of Tafolla’s poems along with reading guides, writing prompts for students, discussion of her work by noted academics, a biographical documentary on Tafolla, and other contextual information.

“My idea was to create a video, web-based resource where you can see Carmen perform the poetry, because she’s such a great performer,” says Bryce Milligan, publisher of Wings Press, who co-produced the site with San Antonio’s Public Studio collaborative.

The site kicks off with a greeting from Mayor Julian Castro, who praises Tafolla’s work as an ambassador for San Antonio, its arts scene, and for poetry in general.

“San Antonio is seeking to become a world-class creative community,” Castro says in the introduction, “and Carmen has been a wonderful part of that journey.”

Cities don’t usually name poet laureates, but that may be changing. San Antonio named Tafolla its first such in 2012, and both Houston and McAllen named inaugural poet laureates—Gwendolyn Zepeda and Olga Valle-Herr, respectively—this year.

It’s a role Tafolla, a San Antonio native, takes seriously. She’s booking public performances, community meetings and events to promote the link between poetry and literacy. She’s active in San Antonio as well as reading her work around the world, including a recent performance in France.

With the website, Milligan hopes more people will be able to discover Tafallo’s work, which he says represents San Antonio perfectly. “She’s imminently honest,” he says. “She took that language of the streets and consciously used it as an art form. That makes her a great voice for the people of San Antonio.”

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Nick Swartsell is a freelance writer and graduate student at the University of Texas.