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First Latina poet laureate of Texas to read at UHV (audio)

By Carolina Astrain
Sept. 15, 2013 at 4:15 a.m.
Updated Sept. 16, 2013 at 4:16 a.m.


AN EXCERPT

Here's an excerpt from "Again for the First Time," Rosemary Catacalos' collection of poetry published in 1984.

"Homesteaders," for the Edwards Aquifer

They came for the water,

came to its sleeping place

here in the bed of an old sea,

the dream of the water.

They sank hand and tool into

soil where the bubble of springs

gave off hope, fresh and long,

the song of the water.

Babies and crops ripened

where they settled,

where they married their sweat

in the ancient wedding,

the blessing of the water.

They made houses of limestone

and adobe, locked together blocks

descended from shells and coral,

houses of the bones of the water,

shelter of the water.

And they swallowed the life

of the lime in the water,

sucked its mineral up

into their own bones

which grew strong as the water,

the gift of the water.

All along the counties they lay,

mouth to mouth with the water,

fattened in the smile of the water,

the light of the water,

water flushed pure through the

spine and ribs of the birth of life,

the old ocean,

the stone,

the home of the water.

Source: Again for the First Time, 1984, Tooth of Time Books

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Rosemary Catacalos, American Book Review Reading Series lecture. The author's works regularly focus on her mixed Mexican and Greek heritage, in which she looks to history, culture and mythology in her explorations of human emotions.

WHEN: Noon Thursday

WHERE: Alcorn Auditorium, University West, University of Houston-Victoria, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

COST: Free

ABR FALL LINEUP:

Brian Evenson - Oct. 17

Evenson has authored 10 books of short stories, seven novels, a book of nonfiction and five translated volumes. His work often focuses on brutality, violence and hypocrisy, using fiction to critique contemporary values.

Christopher Howell - Nov. 7

Howell has authored 10 volumes of poetry, a collection of essays and is the editor of an anthology. Originally a military journalist during the Vietnam War, he later founded Lynx House Press and is now a professor of creative writing at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.

Paul Ruffin - Nov. 21

Best known as a short story author, Ruffin also writes novels and poetry that often focus on the South's people, landscape and attitudes. He is the author of "Circling," which won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award, and is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Although she opted out of college after high school, poet Rosemary Catacalos did not enter adulthood without an education.

Her time spent as a cub reporter in the mid-1960s at the San Antonio Light, a now-defunct Hearst newspaper, served as her undergraduate career.

At the time, playful sexism was common in newsrooms.

"Fishnet stockings were in vogue then," Catacalos said. "I had an old editor that would yell across the room to me, 'Hey sexy socks, when is your story going to be in?'"

The author will give a reading at the University of Houston-Victoria's American Book Review reading series at noon Thursday.

This past spring, the Texas Commission on the Arts announced the state Legislature named Catacalos, 69, the 2013 Texas Poet Laureate. She is the first Latina to receive the award.

"I was completely surprised," Catacalos said.

Her collection, "Again for the First Time," was republished in a special 30th-year edition by Wings Press in July.

In her 1984 book of poetry, "Again for the First Time," Catacalos' poems are rich with romanticism and mythology.

Catacalos credits her Greek and Mexican ancestry for her creative use of imagery and allusion. Time is another theme the author said she likes to follow closely.

Catacalos has published one full-length collection of poetry and two chat books, called "As Long As It Takes" and "Begin Here."

For "Begin Here," Catacalos used a design created by the late Yvonne Seyler Lishutz, a San Antonio stitchery artist who never exhibited her work.

Lishutz made a stitchery design of a Cretan labyrinth, featured on the cover of "Begin Here."

"When she died, I was even more driven to showcase her work," Catacalos said. "Her work was always beautiful."

The rarely published author said she likes to take her time with her work and doesn't like to produce for the sake of production.

"I write all the time, but I don't publish unless I get it right," Catacalos said. "I spent 10 years on one of the pieces in 'Again for the First Time.'"

Despite the casual sexism in the newsroom where she first developed her craft, she enjoyed the environment because she was learning more than she was irritated, Catacalos said.

"It was just a function of the times," Catacalos said. "They would never let me work the police beat because they thought I was too tender of a soul."

During her time as a 19-year-old cub reporter at the San Antonio Light, Catacalos was the only woman on the editorial staff.

"They were really hard on me," Catacalos said. "That newsroom was my university."

Years after her time in the media trenches, Catacalos was granted the two-year Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University in 1989.

"That was wonderful," Catacalos said. "The gift of a lifetime."

The author now lives in San Antonio, where she continues to work on her poetry.

"Poetry is a very good genre for our time," Catacalos said. "With social media, people's attention spans are much shorter."

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