Octavio Quintanilla: The Poetic Landscape of Frontextos

Flip through a stack of current literary magazines and you’re likely to encounter the text and  Frontextos of the dynamic poet Octavio Quintanilla. Poet Laureate of San Antonio 2018-2020, Quintanilla has had visual poems published in a slew of journals: Poetry Northwest, Gold Wake Live, About Place Journal, The American Journal of Poetry and others. He’s the author of the poetry collection, If I Go Missing (Slough Press, 2014) and served as the 2018-2020 Poet Laureate of San Antonio, TX.

“Quintanilla measures displacement with language and grapples with the longing to begin anew, to return to what was left unsaid, undone. Redemption is not always possible in the geography of these poems, but there is always a sense of hope. And by this pulse we are guided, the poet’s unmistakable voice that, finally, clears the way so we may find our bearing.”

. . . Google Books

Los días oscuros 267

Quintanilla was born in Harligen, Texas, but lived in Mexico for nine years. He often 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,” he says, “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.”*

In an interview for Arts Alive USA, Quintanilla describes how his Frontextos project evolved:

I started working on Frontextos January 1, 2018. My challenge was to write a poem or create something every day and stop making excuses for not writing, like I am too busy to write, the usual excuses. I bought some notebooks and I tried to complete some type of poetic text every day. But then, I started doodling on the margins and I liked it. Gradually, the drawings and images became more elaborate. So, basically, I started the project to hold myself responsible for my own creative output. I post them on social media, one every day. And some people respond to the text, some to the drawing, some to both. Overall, the text is in some way evoking the image, but not always. The early ones were done exclusively with black ink on moleskin paper. After a year or so, I started using color. Now I am doing them on archival paper, to make them last.‘**

Los días oscuros 101

Currently he’s working on an exciting new manuscript- of text alterations and poetic erasures of Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza is of course Anzaldúa’s sea-changing 1987 semi-autobiographical work by that examines the Chicano and Latino experience through the lens of issues such as gender, identity, race, and colonialism. Now Quintanilla is exploring them as text and image which can further be worked into a found artistic landscapes producing new possibilities.

Frontexto collaboration with Juan Felipe Herrera

Octavio holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Texas, and is the regional editor for Texas Books in Review and poetry editor for The Journal of Latina Critical Feminism & for Voices de la Luna: A Quarterly Literature & Arts Magazine. 

Additionally, he teaches Literature and Creative Writing in the M.A./M.F.A. program at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas. Have a look at his growing collection of fantastic Frontextos HERE!

You can find him on Instagram @writeroctavioquintanilla and Twitter @OctQuintanilla and HERE.∎

Featured Image: Los días oscuros 152

[1] https://lakefrontollu.com/8833-2/

[2] Arts Alive San Antonio Jasmina Wellinghoff https://artsalivesa.com/octavio-quintanilla-poet-teacher-san-antonio-poet-laureate-2018-20/