City of San Antonio Arts & Culture/ Facebook

Locals who stan for stanzas — this one's for you. April is National Poetry Month, and the City of San Antonio, along with newly appointed Poet Laureate Nephtali De León, is throwing a huge to-do.

The Academy of American Poets has marked the month for the past 27 years to honor poetry's significant role in America's shared culture. San Antonio joined the fun in 2009 and has since grown the celebration to a packed schedule of more than 40 readings, workshops, performances, and discussions.

"National Poetry Month is a celebration of joy, a rebirth of wonders, written, read, and spoken," explains De León via a release. "It is the passion for language, for sentiments and words that reflect the collective human condition of us all."

The official National Poetry Month kickoff is the ninth annual VIVA Poesía: Palabras, Música, y Cultura at Mission Marquee Plaza. The April 1 event featured performances from present and past poets' laureates, live music, visual arts, and more.

The month then goes into high gear with a dizzying array of events tailored to young and old alike. Highlights include DIY poetry happening Slam the Town, Full Steam Ahead: Painting Inspired Poetry at Briscoe Western Art Museum, and Ekphrastic Celebration with Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson at Blue Star Arts Complex.

On April 10, the City of San Antonio will host the 2023 - 2026 Poet Laureate Investiture Ceremony at City Council Chambers. There will also be Jazz Poetry Week on 91.7FM KRTU from April 10-14, Pen to Paper: Southside Slam Night by San Antonio Poetry Archive at Palo Alto College on April 14, MEGA CORAZON – San Antonio's Online Marathon of Performance Poetry by URBAN-15 from April 17-30, Veteran's Writing at Gemini Ink on April 19, and Voices de la Luna Annual Youth Poetry Contest! at Galeria E.V.A. on April 29. Phew! For a complete list of events, head here.

"In celebrating National Poetry Month, we take time to honor the power of words to heal, inspire and unite us in our shared humanity," said Department of Arts & Culture Executive Director Krystal Jones in a statement. "We are proud to support the vibrant poetry scene in our city and encourage everyone in San Antonio to explore the rich diversity of expression this month and throughout the rest of the year."

Mission Marquee Plaza/ Facebook

San Antonio reels in big names for South Side poetry festival


From Dr. Carmen Tafolla's This River Here to Miss Congeniality, San Antonio has long provided fodder for poets and moviemakers alike. Now, the two art forms are coming together during a spectacular cultural event at the Mission Marquee Plaza.

The City of San Antonio World Heritage Office will once again salute rhythm and rhyme during Viva Poesía: Palabras, Música, y Cultura on April 1, 6-10 pm. The annual bash, made possible in part by the City's Department of Arts and Culture, kicks off National Poetry Month by honoring the artistic influence of local poets.

In honor of the Mission Drive-In's 75th anniversary, this year's theme will be "For Reels! A Poetic Tribute to the Movies." Guests can hear original works from a star-studded lineup, including San Antonio's past Poet Laureates Tafolla, Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson, Jenny Brown, and Dr. Octavio Quintanilla. Local spoken word artists Eddie Vega, Rooster Martinez, Arrie Porter, Isabel Brown, and Ollie McCrary will also perform pieces created especially for the event, celebrating the magic and nostalgia of films.

During the event, Department of Arts and Culture Director, Krystal Jones, will introduce San Antonio's new Poet Laureate, Nephtali De León, to San Antonio's literati. Emceed by Anthony "The Poet" Flores, Viva Poesía will also feature live performances by local comedians, the Wonder Theatre, the San Antonio Philharmonic Brass Ensemble, Como Las Movies, and more.

The family friendly event will also offer engaging activities for the younger set, like make-and-take art activities and interactive workshops led by local artists and poets. Plus, pop-up vendors will serve grub and drinks throughout the evening.

The event is free and open to the public, with free on-site parking. More info about Mission Marquee Plaza and its jam-packed 2023 season can be found online.

"Vast artistry, rich culture, and vibrant traditions make San Antonio a city filled with diverse creativity," said District 3 Councilwoman Phyllis Viagran via a release." The entire family is invited to experience the sights, sounds, and festivities of Viva Poesía…."

Courtesy of Academy of American Poets

2 Texans honored with prestigious national poetry awards

The Write Stuff

Two Texans have received one of the highest honors a writer can achieve. Austin resident Cyrus Cassells has been named the 2022 Poet Laureate Fellow for Texas, while Houston's Outspoken Bean has been named the 2022 official Poet Laureate Fellow for Houston.

Both will receive $50,000 for the honor, as part of the $1.1 million worth of funding from the Academy awarded to 22 national fellows to support their respective public poetry programs during their year-long term.

Cassells is a tenured professor at Texas State University, and has received multiple awards for his work, including a Pushcart Prize, the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim, the Lannan Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

He plans to hold a statewide poetry contest in honor of Juneteenth, inviting students in the 6th through 12th grades across Texas to submit entries describing what makes the day significant to them.

Ten winners will be selected; they'll receive a travel stipend to the state capital, where the contest will end with a public reading and ceremony at the Neill-Cochran House Museum. The space features Austin's only intact slave cabin and has long served as a venue for African American events and cultural exhibitions.

Judges for the contest include Texas poets Wendy Barker, Jennifer Chang, Amanda Johnston, and Roger Reeves, and Texas historian Martha Hartzog, according to the academy. The contest screeners and judges, along with the top three winners and seven honorable mentions will receive an honorarium, plus copies of Pulitzer Prize winner Annette Reed's book On Juneteenth and Edward Cotham Jr.'s Juneteenth: The Story Behind the Celebration.

Meanwhile over in Bayou City, Emanuelee Outspoken Bean is an acclaimed spoken word artist who was the first poet to perform on the Houston Ballet stage in the company's production of the popular Play. He also conceptualized and produced Plus Fest: The Everything Plus Poetry Festival. He most recently took the stage for Loveletter, the multi-disciplinary concert hosted and produced by local legend DJ Sun.

During his term as Poet Laureate Fellow, he will complete Space City Mixtape, a spoken-word and creative audio experience of Houston featuring more than 20 tracks from Houstonians telling their stories, the academy notes. Houstonians should look for him at Houston Public Library locations around Houston, as he intends to conduct bi-weekly writing sessions for the next six to eight months in order to capture stories for Space City Mixtape, which will be produced by local producer Russell Guess. Space City Mixtape is slated to be released next year.

Public Poets Laureate have been around since 1919, when the state of Colorado named the first. Fifteen other states named laureates of their own soon after. On the national level, the Library of Congress named Joseph Auslander its first Consultant in Poetry in 1937. This position was renamed the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry in 1985.

Ada Limón is the current Poet Laureate Consultation in Poetry and was named to the position last month.

Poets Laureate at every level promote and advocate for poetry, working to not only bring attention to the art form, but also using their platform to bring attention to issues of importance in their communities. The Academy of American Poets is the largest supporter of poets around the U.S. and has donated more than $4.3 million in fellowships to 81 poets since 2019.

The other poets and the communities they represent are Andru Defeye (Sacramento, California); Ashanti Files (Urbana, Illinois); B. K. Fischer (Westchester County, New York); KaNikki Jakarta (Alexandria, Virginia); Ashley M. Jones (Alabama); Holly Karapetkova (Arlington, Virginia); Kealoha (Hawaiʻi); J. Drew Lanham (Edgefield, South Carolina); Julia B. Levine (Davis, California); Matt Mason (Nebraska); Airea D. Matthews (Philadelphia); Ray McNiece (Cleveland Heights, Ohio); Huascar Medina (Kansas); Gailmarie Pahmeier (Nevada); Catherine Pierce (Mississippi); Rena Priest (Washington); Lynne Thompson (Los Angeles); Emma Trelles (Santa Barbara, California); Gwen Nell Westerman (Minnesota); and Crystal Wilkinson (Kentucky).

Beloved San Antonio Book Festival reveals star lineup for 2022 event

Book Worms Rejoice

After being canceled in 2020 and going virtual in 2021 due to the pandemic, the San Antonio Book Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary with in-person programming on Saturday, May 21. The free annual festival brings together a wide variety of authors from across Texas and the nation, and this year’s lineup includes renowned authors like Jericho Brown, Julia Glass, Margo Jefferson, Natalie Diaz, Emma Straub, and more.

Held at the Central Library and Southwest School of Art, the full-day event kicks off at 9:30 am with an opening ceremony featuring remarks by Mayor Ron Nirenberg and special performances by poets Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson and Naomi Shihab Nye.

“For our 10th anniversary, we could not be more thrilled to return to being in person at the Library, which has recently been restored to its glorious ‘enchilada red’ hue,” says the festival executive director, Lilly Gonzalez, in a release. “Book festivals foster a sense of community and inspire people to think beyond their individual experiences. Reading is a solitary act, and for the past two years, Texas readers have been plunged deeper into isolation, with books serving as a vital gateway to connecting with the world. It feels extra special to be able to come together for this milestone year.”

In addition to in-person events, the festival will also include an all-virtual tent with pre-recorded sessions from authors like Pulitzer Prize winner Margo Jefferson, poets David Hassler and Tyler Meier, and journalist Joshua Prager.

Texas authors abound in this year’s lineup, including Fernando A. Flores, whose book Valleyesque captures the spirit of the Texas-Mexico border. Austin-based novelists Sarah Bird and Stephen Harrigan will both be in attendance: Bird’s sweeping new novel, Last Dance on the Starlight Pier, brings 1930s Galveston to life while Harrigan’s latest, The Leopard is Loose, captures a young boy’s struggle to find his place in his family and country while growing up in 1950s America. Closer to home, the 2022 lineup features several familiar San Antonio faces such as former Mayor of San Antonio Phil Hardberger, newcomer suspense novelist Katie Gutierrez, and Judge Nelson Wolff.

The family-friendly event will also feature children’s book authors, including local writers such as Cariño Cortez, chef of La Familia Cortez Restaurants, whose book, Camila La Magica Makes Tamales, tells the story behind her family's tamale-making tradition. Fellow San Antonian Stephen Briseño will promote his book, The Notebook Keeper: A Story of Kindness From the Border, an inspiring story about a mother and daughter waiting to cross the United States border.

For more information about the San Antonio Book Festival and a full lineup of authors, head to sabookfestival.org. A detailed festival schedule will be available in April.

Photo by Sarah Brooke Lyons

Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival lights up San Antonio with radiant new vibe

in a good light

The lights are coming back on again for 2021’s Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival. After 2019’s 25,000-person draw and 2020’s cancellation, this year’s walk-through represents an opportunity for a forceful return from the dark.

Artists from the skipped year are rolling over the works they created in a simultaneously quiet and tumultuous year, with other, more recent works also on display November 13.

“I think the energy that the artists have brought, and their excitement is going to really feel different than previous festivals,” says executive director Yadhira Lozano, who was appointed in 2020 and will experience this year’s festival as her first in the role.

The new director is especially looking forward to the large installations that light up the night, including one projection across a giant screen on a 26-foot stage.

A few things have changed for the nonprofit since its last festival. It still offers a unique spread of art across the spectrum, from visual, to audio, to movement, and even literature. The way audiences will connect with those works is evolving. Luminaria used its pandemic-forced time inside and funds from the National Endowment for the Arts to launch an inquiry into public perception of the festival.

Since its inception in 2008 by former Mayor Phil Hardberger, the event has been free for attendees and completely driven by public interest, connecting San Antonians to the arts within the city. This time, a consultant helped the organization search for areas of improvement.

Strategic planning among artists revealed a desire for more local support and finding diversity at home instead of seeking it elsewhere. Ideas tumbled together and Luminaria is considering an artist exchange program that continues its global connections of past years while ensuring that San Antonio artists are benefiting equally.

One consensus was clear among attendees: The festival had to be an in-person event. People are tired of livestreams. Logistically, there were reports that some artists’ works had been hard to find at past events, so the festival has done away with its more conceptual programs and adopted straightforward maps. With only one path through the completely outdoor installments (another two new additions for 2021), it will be hard to miss any artist’s work.

Luminaria presented another influential finding in a paper published by the National Review of the Arts: During the pandemic, families have stuck together more than ever when going out. Instead of opening the familial “pod” to friend groups and babysitters, families are keeping their distance as independent units.

Most importantly, Luminaria learned that attendees were intrigued by art they hadn’t been interested in before, proving that the festival is doing its job. The starting point is furtive glances at weird displays, and each artist’s presence offers a portal to better insight for those willing to ask questions.

Lozano is paying attention to what’s important to both artists and audiences, hoping it will unite the entire arts scene in San Antonio. What they want is very attainable.

“People moved here from other places because they just like it here, is what they’ve been telling me,” says Lozano. “It’s no groundbreaking, inspirational quote, but it works for me.”

Tourism and military, Lozano points out, are the city’s most profitable industries, with the latter supporting the former when families come to visit. She hopes audiences will follow the artists at the festival on social media, and keep up with their work past the one-night celebration.

Particularly in 2020, Lozano’s goal is to show audiences that artists are essential workers that need support. The art scene is a nearly inexhaustible fountain of what makes San Antonio so likable. It’s a core belief that will secure funds for arts nonprofits to keep diversifying and bring communities together for what they ask for. One thing they’re asking for, revealed the outreach, is more nights of Luminaria.

“What do we turn to in the pandemic when we’re sitting on our butts at home? We’re reading books, we’re watching Netflix, we’re listening to music,” says Lozano. “Take [entertainment] away, and then what? It’s just you and your imagination. And then you become the artist. It’s part of our life force.”

Every year, the Luminaria Contemporary Arts Festival is free for all, and does not require an RSVP. The path snakes through Hemisfair, the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, and the San Antonio River Walk on November 13 from 6 pm to midnight.

Story Time at Hemisfair returns with new chapter of in-park programming

Book it!

San Antonio parents, take note: After 16 long months of offering only virtual programming, Hemisfair is bringing back its free weekly Story Time events for kids at Yanaguana Garden, and is welcoming a special partnership with a local nonprofit that shares a knack for storytelling.

The in-person Story Time series with the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum kicked off Tuesday, October 5, and will take place at Hemisfair each first Tuesday of the month through May 2022.

The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum works to collect, preserve, and share the African American cultural heritage of the San Antonio region through a variety of exhibits and programming.

Hemisfair notes the partnership further highlights its commitment to creating experiences that embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for all San Antonio residents and visitors.

“What a great opportunity to engage children with stories and conversations illustrating that we all have a place here, this is our collective community, and because someone does not look like me does not mean I should be afraid or treat them differently,” says Deborah Omowale Jarmon, CEO and director of SAAACAM, via a release. “The opportunity for children of all ages, backgrounds, and areas of town to come together at Hemisfair, where they’ll interact and learn these lessons with each other, promotes understanding through fun engagement.”

The monthly Story Time program is the first of several collaborations that are in the works for the two organizations. SAAACAM will host nearly all its outdoor events at Hemisfair in 2022 to give local families more opportunities to explore San Antonio’s African American culture.

In addition to the in-person, in-park experience, Story Time with SAAACAM will be recorded and broadcast the second Saturday of each month on the museum’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. The sessions will also be available through SAAACAM’s Conscious Curriculum webpage and archived at the Digital Library Special Collections at Texas A&M University–San Antonio.

“Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair is unique in that, on any given day, you see children and families of all backgrounds interacting with each other and enjoying play time,” Andres Andujar, CEO of Hemisfair, says. “This Story Time series with SAAACAM will further encourage exploration and learning about the history and culture of San Antonio’s Black and African American communities while reaching more residents who may not know that Hemisfair belongs to them.”

Though Hemisfair’s Story Time is free to attend, registration is encouraged.

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Famous furniture store Louis Shanks shutters last remaining San Antonio location

closing up shop

After nearly 80 years in business, family-owned Texas furniture store Louis Shanks is closing down its business.

As reported by Furniture Today, Louis Shanks will host a liquidation sale beginning Thursday, September 21, at the last remaining store in San Antonio, at 11035 IH-10 West, and its flagship store in Austin.

The furniture retailer first opened in 1945, led by its namesake Louis Shanks and John Stanford, Furniture Today said. The business had been operated by the Shanks family for four generations, with the San Antonio store opening in 1983. The company previously had a second Austin store, and more locations Houston and Sugar Land, which have all since been closed.

"An independent, regional retailer became nationally recognized by the industry and its customers for its fine furniture selection and impeccably vignetted showrooms," the industry website said.

Furniture Today reported that Planned Furniture Promotions will be spearheading the liquidation sale for Louis Shanks. Senior vice president Tom Liddell said in a statement that his company is "honored to be a part of [the] historic moment" with the long-established furniture retailer.

"This is a celebration of their decades of excellence and an extraordinary opportunity for consumers in the Austin and San Antonio areas to experience the legacy of Louis Shanks Furniture one last time," Liddell said. "This marks the end of an era, and we at PFP are thrilled they have entrusted us with this pivotal project."

A combined 200,000 square feet of merchandise will be liquidated, according to the report.

Horror film It Lives Inside sets itself apart with unique cultural details

Movie Review

Like most genres in film history, horror movies have tended to be relatively homogeneous, focusing mostly on white characters and, if it delved into religion, Christianity. As movies in general have become more diverse, so has the storytelling, something which benefits a film like It Lives Inside.

Megan Suri in It Lives Inside

Photo courtesy of Neon

Megan Suri in It Lives Inside.

The story centers on Indian-American teenager Samidha (Megan Suri), who’s suffering to a degree with her cultural identity, indicated by the opening scene depicting her shaving the dark hair off her arms. Her self-esteem isn’t helped by her childhood best friend, Tamira (Mohana Krishnan), having turned herself into an outcast, eating lunch under bleachers and carrying a weird jar around everywhere.

Tamira claims that something lives inside the jar that has to be constantly fed, and a confrontation between the two unleashes the monster on Tamira and starts a series of scary dreams for Samidha. As the monster slowly insinuates itself into Samidha’s increasingly isolated life, she must turn to the one person with whom she’s having the most difficulty, her mother, Poorna (Neeru Bajwa).

The feature film debut for writer/director Bishal Dutta and co-writer Ashish Mehta, It Lives Inside has the familiarity of other previous mysterious force/monster movies, but sets itself apart by incorporating Indian and Hindu traditions. When Samidha confronts Tamira, she discovers a book filled with all manner of strange drawings and writing, but instead of being merely the scrawls of a possessed person, much of it is a reference to Hindu mythology.

For much of the film, Samidha shuns the traditions that her family, especially her mother, tries to keep alive. So it’s no small irony that it’s those same rituals and knowledge that may serve as the key to understanding and defeating the monster. It feels like the filmmakers are trying to tell a story about the costs of assimilation into a new country/culture as much as they’re to scare audiences.

Compared to other horror films, they do a pretty good job with the atmosphere and special effects. The monster is kept hidden in the shadows for most of the film, so there’s a solid creepy factor that keeps the tension level high. In fact, they might have done well not showing it at all; it’s only when it’s revealed that the spell is broken to a degree.

Suri is at the start of what’s shaping up to be a solid career, having co-starred in the recent Missing and on Netflix’s Never Have I Ever. She makes for a great lead character and horror protagonist. She’s aided by good supporting turns from Krishnan, Bajwa, and Betty Gabriel, who plays her teacher.

It Lives Inside more than holds its own in the scare department and ups the ante with its unique details. In a year that’s featured its fair share of intense movies, it brings a different perspective alongside its horrors.


It Lives Inside opens in theaters on September 22.

Sudden shutters, buzzy burgers, and jam-packed events crowd San Antonio food news


Editor's note: We get it. It can be difficult to keep up with the fast pace of San Antonio's restaurant and bar scene. We have you covered with our weekly roundup of essential food news.

Openings and closings

A downtown pub won't be around to celebrate St. Patrick's Day 2024. Via a September 17 Instagram post, Maddy McMurphy's Irish Sports Bar announced its immediate closure after a five-year run. The watering hole teased the news a few days prior, promoting a "Last Hurrah" party on September 15. Neither bulletin offered any explanation for the move. Sibling concepts in owner Terry Corless' portfolio, including Mad Dogs British Pub and Prost Haus, will continue to operate.

Local fast-casual joint Biff Buzby's Burgers observed National Cheeseburger Day by announcing a second location. The outpost will be located at the former site of the short-lived Windmill Ice House on 2769 Nacogdoches Rd., confirming the latter's July temporary closure was permanent. Judging by Facebook photos, Biff Buzby's is nearing completion, though the owners weren't quite ready to declare an opening date. They did share that the original location's popular car shows would not be revving up at the new space.

Drive-thru coffee shop 7 Brew is also in expansion mode. A press release spilled the beans on an upcoming second San Antonio location at 6202 North I-35 Frontage Rd. The Arkansas-based company opened its first local outlet in July, introducing the Alamo City market to original creations like the Smooth 7, a white chocolate and Irish cream breve. The new location will host soft opening events September 22-29, leading up to the September 30 grand opening.

Other news and notes

While America's craft beer industry is struggling, Alamo Beer Co. is making a bold move. The Eastside brewery is merging with VIVA Beer, according to a release. The move will allow the latter to grow the brand in San Antonio and beyond.

Embracing the de facto return of fall, if not the return of crisp weather, the food scene is preparing for a flurry of events. The Big Red & Barbacoa Festival has announced the dates for its 11th year. Single-day tickets start at $10 and are available online.

Can't wait until October for festival season? The San Antonio Brunch Festival runs from 11am to 3 pm on September 23. More than a dozen local eateries will be participating, offering unlimited bites. Tickets, ranging from $85-$150, are no longer available online but will be available at the door. More details are available here.

The University of Texas San Antonio's popular Ven a Comercelebration returns on September 29. Several activities are planned to support UTSA's renowned Mexican cookbook collection, including a series of dinners at Mixtli, a DIY cookbook workshop, a community pachanga, and a party at Carriqui. As always, the event's showcase will be a fundraising dinner on September 29 featuring local chefs Alexana Cabrera and Sofia Tejeda, mezcalero Pedro Jimenez Gurria, and James Bears Award winner Iliana de la Vega of Austin's El Naranjo.

Ladino is marking its first anniversary with a grill-out party on October 1. The shindig will feature unlimited bites, a live DJ, and games for $40. Cocktails will be available for purchase.