Poet Spotlight: Carmen Tafolla

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Dr. Carmen Tafolla is a tremendously accomplished author. She’s written over 20 books, including volumes of poetry, short stories, historical nonfiction, and children’s books. In 2012, she was named the first Poet Laureate of San Antonio, and in 2015 she was named the Poet Laureate of the State of Texas. We are so lucky to count her as a friend of the Festival – she participated in our Reading Rock Stars program in the Rio Grande Valley just last month, and her book What Can You Do With a Paleta? was a huge hit with the students.

Her poetry often focuses on Chicano themes and culture, and her female characters are notable for displaying exceptional inner strength and will. She was recognized by the National Association for Chicano Studies for “giving voice to the peoples and cultures of this land.”

In honor of Carmen and National Poetry Month, her first official poem as San Antonio Poet Laureate, DO IT, is printed below.



May 2012, San Antonio 


a whisper of algo posible

a breath of dream

a shadow of vision

a twilit profile

of some possible future

Could we visualize?

Could we even



Could we put into daring words

our unborn yearnings

our unwritten goals

pale sprouts of wishes

not yet rooted enough

to have claimed their soil?


The meetings were set

for a building so large

we feared it would be half-empty

But the people came

and they came

and they came

arriving eagerly in cars and on bikes

in wheelchairs and on foot

by bus and by word of mouth

till the building overflowed

and a second space was needed,

absorbed the filling to the brim


Where CEOs met Homeless,

both passionate about the yearnings of their souls

and the beauty of their goals

Educators and Information Specialists

Environmentalists and Engineers

Historical Preservers and Advocates for Health

Parents of Young Children, Senior Citizens

Artists, Office Workers, Road Builders, Civil Rights Defenders

Guardians carving a sacred protection

gently, bravely, insisting on the possible

“PLEASE build everything Green, or not at all,” they said,

“Education is the Key that opens ALL the doors,” they said

“Fearless Innovation,” they said

“More Parks”, “Better Roads”

“Protect the People”

“Build it, Dream It, See it –




Our pleas and plans waited  —

breathless,  carefully anointed.


Where Art students displayed their painted treasures

and the community college Jazz Band teased our ears, our lives

Where Travis High students wore placards that shouted

“Ask me about MY College Plans”

and a chanting chorus of 5th graders

performed the power of multiplication.

Where the homeless made the sandwiches for the meeting

Where the dreamers scribbled the questions for the next agenda

and the next

and the next

for a year of Dream It, Map It,

Dream It, Map It


*          *          *          *


Now the seed of an idea grows tall,

the sweep of its cool shade consuming us

The dreaming, the mapping

become something we can ALMOST touch…

a passion stirs us

a possibility

a new surge of hope


From so many divergent paths

these people, the people of our pueblo

joined only by a vision

for a new world

one city, one family, many colors, many chords

Each meeting –a bold step forward on the path,

a new note in this symphony

of voices


all whispering, murmuring, drumming, shouting,

pulsing from their veins

the common, unspoken prayer


Just Do it

Do it



Make It Come–brick by brick, stone by stone, law by law

life by life,

doors opening wide like the sunrise,

opening our eyes till at last, we see

what we CAN touch

what we WILL



–       Poem by Carmen Tafolla,

      Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio