The Student News Site of Trinity University


The Student News Site of Trinity University


The Student News Site of Trinity University


Poet laureates of Texas join community at Trinity

ire’ne lara silva and Octavio Quintanilla discuss writing about loss and identity
Natalia Treviño
Norma E. Cantú introduces authors Ire’ne Lara Silva and Octavio Quintanilla

Poet laureates of Texas join community at Trinity
ire’ne lara silva and Octavio Quintanilla discuss writing about loss and identity

ire’ne lara silva, 2023 Texas state poet laureate, and Octavio Quintanilla, poet laureate of San Antonio from 2018 to 2020, joined members of the San Antonio community in Mabee Auditorium for “A Night of Poetry” last Thursday night. The event was held in celebration of silva’s newest collection of poetry titled “the eaters of flowers,” published this past January, and in excited anticipation of Quintanilla’s upcoming collection, “The Book of Wounded Sparrows.”

ire’ne lara silva is an award-winning writer who has worked in many styles, from short stories to graphic novels, but has focused on poetry since a young age. “Poetry is always where I go when I’m trying to figure things out,” silva said. Their poetry collections over the years have explored illness and fear, identity and Indigeneity, and “the eaters of flowers” marks a grappling with loss and grief. After the passing of her brother, she described the need to figure out how to live after that kind of loss.

“Writing allows for the sparking of discussions that otherwise might not happen,” silva said. “It leaves me not feeling isolated or alone in my grief.”

Emily Leaming, senior philosophy and English major, described the experience of hearing the personal poems while attending the event.“I definitely was very moved and connected to the poems regarding grief as I had a family member at the end of last year pass away,” Leaming said. “Even if I couldn’t connect with certain themes, there was a sense of connection through humanity.”

Quintanilla spoke to how exposure to unfamiliar themes, in a form with imbued emotionality, broadens perspectives. “It is important for students and young people to be exposed to poetry because it will give them an opportunity to learn about and experience somebody else’s view of the world,” Quintanilla said. Quintanilla’s poetry concerns themes of identity, family, dislocation and immigration in what he calls “emotional autobiography.”

“I’ve always believed that all of us are made of stories,” Quintanilla said. “I chose to tell my story because crossing the border means that once you do, everything you are often stays behind: your history, your language … So by telling a story, by telling a poem, you fight against that erasure.”

The Borderlands’ history, experience and identity is a thematic current that runs through both Quintanilla and silva’s art as Latinx writers in Texas.
“Writing about identity, I think, gives us the space to define it our way,” silva said. “The border is not just 10 miles on either side of the geopolitical border. You take the border with you … no matter where you go.”

silva engages with decolonial and intersectional feminist theory in all aspects of her life. This is a perspective shared by Quinanilla, who is active in the labor movement in San Antonio. They spoke about how writing about Borderlands, Latinx identity is a liberatory and empowering process, although it is not always easy. “Navigating Borderlands means that you have to be willing to often tell a story of pain and loss,” Quintanilla said.

Joelle Lamaie, first-year English and pre-med student, particularly resonated with this topic as a writer and a person whose family belongs to the Copts ethnic group, which is indigenous to Egypt.

“I come from a long history of violence and colonialism,” Lamaie said. ire’ne lara silva’s poems speak to a similar history, prompting Lamaie to ask silva after the reading, “How do you make sense of a story that you don’t know?”

“She told me something that she writes by, which is that ‘we have to reach into the past while dreaming of the future,’” Lamaie said. “It was this beautiful moment.”

Lamaie reflected on the community that gathers around poetry, and the shared empathy for each others’ experiences and art. She spoke about bringing 10 friends from her pre-med cohort to the reading.

“It often feels like I’m in two different communities that don’t really intersect,” Lamaie said, “[My friends] felt like it was something that they could actually get involved in and connect with each other over.”

Both Joelle Lamaie and Emily Leaming are young poets who have published pieces. After the reading, leaming spoke about feeling inspired to write with a more truthful and open approach, a sentiment ire’ne lara silva encouraged.

“My favorite piece of advice to give to everybody is to learn how to tell the truth,” silva said, “When you go into [revision], if your primary thought is —‘how do I revise this so that it tells the truth better?’ — it completely changes what you do with language and form and structure, and the story and the people.”

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