Palo Alto College houses San Antonio’s poetry archive

Mural created by PAC ceramics and sculpture students under the direction of Art Professor Cakky Brawley.

By Fernanda Sanchez
Pulse Staff Reporter

Writers often struggle to make a living from their art. Marie Bullock, the founder of the Academy of American Poets, expressed concern over the absence of financial support given to poets. The Academy of American Poets inaugurated National Poetry Month in 1996. For the past 20 years, NPM has become a worldwide celebration with booksellers, libraries, schools and publishers heralding the importance of poetry in our world and cultures.

In 2009, San Antonio began to celebrate NPM by creating its own calendar of events. This calendar provides information to the public about poetry workshops, readings, panel discussions, slam and spoken word competitions. More than 90 local events have been scheduled for this year. The events are designed to increase public awareness about poetry’s essential place in San Antonio.

Appointed by former mayor, Julian Castro, Laurie Ann Guerrero became the San Antonio Poet Laureate in 2014. She was born and raised on the South Side and has now partnered with COSA to house the San Antonio Poetry Archive at Palo Alto College.

On Wednesday, March 23, 2016, the archive opened at the Ozuna Library. It holds published and unpublished work of poets born in San Antonio or those who have lived here.

“The difference between archives and a library…A library contains lots of published items and you could find those in lots of different places all over the planet…libraries, people’s bookshelves. The archive side of it is a completely unique resource. The idea is that no one else has this, and the only place you can get it is in one place. It’s an original document,” said Sara Schmidt, archivist at Palo Alto’s Ozuna Library.

The concept of the archive is to gather photographs, journals, letters and other items. A teddy bear that belongs to Naomi Shihab Nye will be on display next month. Schmidt said that Nye started writing at a very young age and the teddy bear was her first audience.

As poets donate their work and items, a finding aid will be set up online for people to access everything in the archive.

“The poetry archive is a very interesting resource that holds items that no other place has and it’s a way for people to discover local writers,” said Christian Ruiz, a sophomore Communications major.

A mural representing the spirit of poetry was unveiled at the opening reception. It was designed and created by Palo Alto College ceramics and sculpture students led by Cakky Brawley. After the mural was revealed, a mariachi group started playing, photographs were taken and people rapidly lined up to get Guerrero’s most recent book autographed.

“The Poetry Archive is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard of.  I feel so grateful to everyone who worked so hard to create this resource for our students and our community…For young poets, seeing this living, breathing world of what being a poet is like will inspire so very many more people…This is a really beautiful resource for PAC and such a testament to the respect our campus has for poetry and storytelling,” said Loretta Marie Long, an adjunct English instructor.

Local poets are encouraged to donate their personal papers and other archival items. For more on how to donate literary and personal work, visit the National Poetry Month San Antonio website or contact Sara Schmidt, archivist at the Ozuna Library, (210) 486-3575.