Brush with the Divine
City of San Antonio reveals inspiring 2023-2026 poet laureate pick
The City of San Antonio has announced Nephtali De León as San Antonio’s new Poet Laureate. De León will serve as the city’s sixth Poet Laureate for a three-year term spanning April 1, 2023-March 31, 2026.
“Nephtali’s work in the community is exemplary of the role of a Poet Laureate,” says Department of Arts & Culture executive director Krystal Jones. “He is one of the most prolific Chicano writers in the literary world today and his lyrical poetry and other artistic expressions have touched the lives of so many, both here in San Antonio and across the globe.”
De León is a Chicano writer and artist known for his poetry, children's stories, essays, paintings, and sculptures. He was born in Laredo, Texas, in 1945 as the son of migrant workers. De León has stated that they were responsible for first exposing him to literature.
He published his first book — Chicanos: Our Background and Our Pride — in the early 1960s during his senior year of high school. He then expanded his work to include poetry and plays. He has been published in Mexico, France, the U.S., and Spain, with his stories being translated into several languages.
Currently, De León is a full-time poet, writer, and painter who performs lectures and poetry at schools and community events.
“I am humbled and honored that the city I love, San Antonio, Texas, selected me to be its Poet Laureate, “ says De León. “Poetry is to the soul what music is to the ear. It is the most profound impassioned quest to brush with the divine. In San Antonio, we speak through our ancestors in a code-switching modality, taco-flavored musings. It is the poetry of our jalapeno-hot, chili-flavored souls! It is time to raise the roof high and celebrate our city.”
In 2012, San Antonio became the first major city in Texas to recognize and appoint a Poet Laureate. Texas has appointed a state Poet Laureate since 1932.
De León joins previous San Antonio Poets Laureate Carmen Tafolla (2012-2014), Laurie Ann Guerrero (2014-2016), Jenny Browne (2016-2018), Octavio Quintanilla (2018-2020), and Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson (2020-2023) in a role intended to promote and preserve the art of poetry, while celebrating the culture and history of San Antonio.
Three of the previous San Antonio Poets Laureate have also become State Poets Laureate for Texas.
Mayor Ron Nirenberg and the Department of Arts & Culture will host a public investiture ceremony at City Council Chambers in the Municipal Plaza Building at 114 W. Commerce on Monday, April 10, at 6 pm to officially appoint De León to the position.
This event is part of the line-up of programing taking place throughout the city in April in celebration of National Poetry Month.
To learn more about the San Antonio Poet Laureate Program, National Poetry Month in San Antonio, and the Department of Arts & Culture, go to www.SanAntonio.gov/Arts and follow @GetCreativeSA.