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Mark your calendars: Saretta Morgan will be reading with Natalie Diaz and Joe Jimenez at The Twig Book Shop on December 13. Free and open to the public. 

Gemini Ink recently asked Saretta Morgan a series of questions on her writing process and sources of inspiration. During our conversation, we learned about her “Youtube University,” the challenges of collaborating artistically with a romantic partner, and the importance of literary community.

by Alexandra van de Kamp


1) If you had one piece of advice to offer a young, just-setting-out writer, or even an experienced one, what would it be?

Find the literary communities that are generating work that speaks to you, and where writers are relating to one another in a way that nourishes and challenges you. Then do the work of helping those communities grow.

This is one way to put yourself in meaningful conversation with the writers you admire and with your future readers. I strongly believe that such conversations are how we resist the categorizations that relegate many forms of anti-conformist writing to the margins.


2) Describe a writing “space” or desk you have encountered in your journey as an artist which was truly fruitful for you in some way. Or feel free to evoke one especially less-than-convenient writing space you had to grapple with!

I work well in tight spaces with low but consistent ambient noise. There’s something about feeling surrounded that helps me focus. Last year I had a studio residency on the 34th floor of a skyscraper in lower Manhattan. The view was expansive. Incredible. In the morning I could watch the sun rise and gold the east river. At night the other buildings made a constellation of rectangular lights throughout the city. I got almost no writing done those entire 9 months. But I loved reading and wondering there. And drawing, sometimes. The long view made everything seem possible.


3) Can you name a source you return to for ongoing or periodic creative inspiration?

I like to put on lectures or panel discussions and listen to them while I wash the dishes, or twist my hair. My friend, the poet and photographer Ariel Goldberg, and I have a slowly expanding collection of online lectures (recently podcasts have entered the circulation, but I’ve yet to master that technology). We call it our “Youtube University,” for lack of a better title, which is a solid little archive for me to pull from when I want to engage with something but can’t figure out where my mind wants to go.

Hortense Spillers has two lectures online that I watch a lot. In one, she presents black culture as the ongoing project of saving the planet, which is a pretty rad way to think about blackness. The other is a project of analyzing intimacy under conditions of slavery in pursuit of (one hopes) new forms of love.

Currently I’m listening to Mabel Wilson’s “Other Monumentalities.” Wilson talks about the need to analyze the technology of slave labor as it relates to the Smithsonian’s that line our National Mall—the buildings that come to house and represent national narratives around cultural, educational and civic evolution in the United States. In other words: to think beyond the irony of slaves building monuments to freedom.


4) As a multi-media artist who seems to revel in exploring the idea of “text” and how it can be presented in a variety of ways, how do you feel about the role of the book as a physical, page-turning object in our contemporary culture?  

belladonna chapbooksThere are things that I appreciate about books. Holding them. Gifting them unexpectedly. Passing them back and forth with friends. I enjoy printed photocopies of writing too, though they get torn or smushed quickly. I’m not a very careful person (I really USE my literature, bound and unbound—I fold pages, write in margins, carry them in my bags for weeks).

One really great thing about books over most electronic reproductions is all of the extra information relayed through design. I recently received four very small books throughout the course of one day. Youmna Chlala’s Can You See Us, William Pope L.’s Black People are Cropped, and the two most recent additions to Belladonna*’s chaplet series.

Each of those books has a different feel. Youmna’s book has a gorgeous collage which folds out from the center. The text and image on her front cover almost disappear depending on the lighting conditions and the angle you view it from, while at other times they appear bold and definite (an interesting play off the title). The Belladonna* chaplets are printed in limited editions of 126 and bound in a fairly light-weight cardstock—factors that make them feel precious and ephemeral. Pope L.’s little book feels old school. All of these differences have a real influence on how I read the text.


5) What is your next project?

I just completed a small collaboration with Natalie Diaz, who, in addition to being an amazing poet, essayist and artist, is my love. It’s our first project together: a chapbook with text from me and drawings she made in response, which is now entering production mode. Most of the artist couples I know admit that collaborating with a romantic partner requires a lot of practice, and we’ve found that to be true. But it also feels rewarding, and important and makes me excited about future projects.

And I just submitted a proposal for a small book + photo essay examining internalized violence as a form of political resentment.

Lastly, there is a small dream of traveling to Waco, TX in the next couple months. My knowledge of my paternal lineage ends there in 1885. I want to do some kind of video work in that area. I have a lot of footage of our farm in Florida (where my father’s family has been for the past three generations) that I shot a couple years ago, and I want to see what might happen if I put the two up against each other.

Gracias to all Writers in Communities faculty who took part in our annual WIC training last Saturday. Thanks for all your support and all the work that you do!


Our four judges have just gotten back to us with the results of the “30 Poems for the Tricentennial” Poetry Contest. And we are happy to say that after considering quite an extraordinarily high-quality group of over 300 submissions, they have selected the following 30 winning poems for publication in the chapbook, Thirty Poems for the Tricentennial: A Poetic Legacy.

The 30 selected poems will be interpreted into 2D works of art by local artists and designers to be installed in the City of San Antonio’s Culture Commons Gallery for a special exhibit.  

Thank you to all who submitted and congratulations to the winners.


Winning Poems

  1. “Drought in San Antonio” by Mariana Aitches
  2. “El Paradiso de Texas” by Dario Beniquez
  3. “Lily, Pad, and Pond” by Diane Bertrand
  4. “Anthem for the God of Justice” by Ariana Brown
  5. “Fray Damian Massanet Meets Los Payayas on June 13, 1691” by Jacinto Cardona
  6. “Lines in the Sand” by Carolyn Chatham
  7. “Esperanza” by Irene Chavez
  8. “The Hunter-Gather Could Swaddle in Deerskin” by Aaron Deutsch
  9. “One Sunday Morning at Travis Park United Methodist Church” by Cyra Dumitru
  10. “The First Jews of San Antonio” by Cassandra Farrin
  11. “Song for America V” by Fernando Esteban Flores
  12. “Heads or Tails” by Sofia Fortuno
  13. “dates in the 210” by John Fry
  14. “San Antonio River by Concepción Mission 1740” by Lisha Garcia
  15. “Rio Medina” by Joyce Henefield Coleman
  16. “Hijos Dalgos” by Lucas Jacob
  17. “La Verdad Olvidada” by Seres Jaime Magaña
  18. “Gone Yanaguana” by Pablo Miguel Martínez
  19. “Goat Man of San Antonio” by Robert McGowan
  20. “Ese Rinconcito del Mundo” by Regina Moya
  21. “remember” by Maya Obregon
  22. “La Posta del Palo Alto’ as San Antonio Poeta, 1935” by Kamala Platt
  23. “Merged Mundos” by Anjela Ratliff
  24. “A Three-Part Grito” by Bárbara Renaud González
  25. “Resurrection Song” by Ravi Shankar
  26. “Legacy of the Blue Hole”  by Linda Simone
  27. “San Antonio Son” by Burgin Streetman
  28. Yanaguana (prior to 1718) by Jon Tribble
  29. “Paleta-Man” by Eduardo Vega
  30. “Honey Mesquite Dreams the People” by Mobi Warren

Contest Closed

In honor of San Antonio’s Tricentennial, the Department of Arts and Culture of the City of San Antonio, with support from Gemini Ink, is sponsoring a poetry contest.

The contest will be judged by a panel of nationally recognized poets. Winners receive a $250 prize and publication in a chapbook titled, Thirty Poems for the Tricentennial: A Poetic Legacy. Winning poems will be turned into graphically designed vinyl installations by local artists and designers in an exhibit at the Plaza de Armas Gallery, and also installed in local libraries and city facilities. The anthology will be launched at a public reading and opening reception.

Contest Judges*

Rodney Gomez is the author of several award-winning poetry collections, including Mouth Filled with Night (Northwestern University Press, 2014) and A Short Tablature of Loss (Seven Kitchens Press, 2016). His newest collection Citizens of the Mausoleum is forthcoming in 2018 (Sundress Publication).

Patricia Spears Jones has won numerous honors in poetry, including the 2017 Jackson Poetry Prize, one of the most prestigious awards for American Poets. Her most recent collection is: A Lucent Fire: New and Selected Poems (2015).

Urayoán Noel is the author of award-winning poetry collections, both in English and Spanish, most recently Buzzing Hemisphere (2015) and the acclaimed literary study Invisible Movement: Nuyorican Poetry from the Sixties to Slam (2014).

Sasha West’s first book of poems, Failure and I Bury the Body (Harper Perennial 2013), was a winner of the National Poetry Series and the Texas Institute of Letters First Book Award.

Themes and Categories

The contest contains six categories, described below, which span San Antonio’s dynamic 300-year history. Poems submitted need not be overtly “historical,” but must reference the culture/feeling/life of San Antonio during these different time periods.

  1. The Pre-Columbian era or Yanaguana (prior to 1718)

Yanaguana was the name the Payaya Indians gave their village, which is now the Bexar County area. It was a place abundant with water and fish. Poems submitted in this category might seek to summon San Antonio’s history before the arrival of the Spaniards and speak to the roots of the Payaya and their lands.

  1. The Spanish Colonial Period (1718-1809)

During this era, the Spanish colonizers strived to spread Christianity to the Native Americans living throughout different areas of Texas, including San Antonio. The San Antonio missions served as centers of power and religion where missionaries and friars saw their task as “educating” Native Americans. Poems in this category may reflect on the changes in culture, daily life, religion and architecture that took place during this time.

  1. Mexican era (1810-1836)

This era traces the origins of Anglo settlement in South Texas, the beginning of a Tejano identity, and the growing strife around Santa Anna, who was President of Mexico during this period. Poems in this category might touch on the political upheaval that took place during this time or trace the emergent Tejano identity.

  1. Texas Nation era (1836-1846)

This period encompasses the Battle of the Alamo, led by Santa Anna, which took place in the Spring of 1836. “Remember the Alamo” was the battle cry that originated from this time. On April 21st, Texas won the Battle of San Jacinto and gained its independence. April’s Fiesta celebrations commemorate this battle. Poems in this category might use Fiesta or one of these two battles, among other commemorable events, as inspiration or starting point for reflection.

  1. San Antonio: Crossroads City (1846-1946)

After the Alamo, San Antonio became a home for many immigrants, including Germans seeking religious freedom. As revolutionaries fled to San Antonio, the Mexican Revolution began to take form. Up through World War II, San Antonio experienced immense growth in cattle culture, population and educational and civic institutions. Poems in this category might reflect on some of these political and cultural shifts.

  1. Modern Times (1947-2017)

During this period, the Chicano Movimiento was born in Texas. The Mexican American Youth Organization helped to move it forward while figures such as Emma Tenayuca fought for greater equality in the workplace. Poems in this category may focus on a number of different themes, including these cultural movements or others such as the rise of the Spurs basketball team, or the metamorphosis of the city into a contemporary vibrant metro center.

For further questions, contact Alexandra van de Kamp at or Sheila Black at You may also call Gemini Ink at 210.734.9673.

30 poems supporters

Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson & Christopher “Rooster” Martinez

Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson & Christopher “Rooster” Martinez

Spoken Word Poetry Youth Workshop
Instructors: Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson & Christopher “Rooster” Martinez
Sun, Jul 23, 9am–12:30pm (Celebratory reading follows from 1:45-2:45pm)
Cost: $35/student (includes access to Saturday book fair and panels, and Sunday workshop and reading)

The Spilled Ink Project is a writing workshop for young people to learn about the craft of spoken word poetry and create original work while receiving feedback and direction from locally renowned writers and performers—Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson & Christopher “Rooster” Martinez. The Spilled Ink Project is designed for youth writers (13-17 years-old) of any experience level. Participants will craft writing in the vein of spoken word poetry, discuss how spoken word differentiates itself from page poetry, and practice techniques to help translate a writer’s words from page to performance.

An afternoon performance will follow the workshop and offer participants an opportunity to perform their newly created work in a supportive environment, with Vocab and Rooster Emceeing.


Register Here

You can also apply for a scholarship to attend this workshop

Access the discounted rate at the historic downtown El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel.

This rate includes free self-parking.

Questions, contact Lupe Hernandez at 210.277.4043.

el tropicana