Texas Poet Credits Oswego With Changing her Life

Viktoria Valenzuela '10Viktoria Valenzuela ’10 dispels every stereotype of the isolated writer. No garret room, no solitary pursuits for this San Antonio author. It’s as if, having found her voice at SUNY Oswego, she can’t stop using it.

Valenzuela’s calendar is as packed with commitments as her poetry is rich with images—a writing workshop at Gemini Ink, a book release party for her teen students’ work, an arts event. She helped organize 100 Thousand Poets for Change San Antonio, Texas, a response to the BP oil spill, and she constantly writes for performance and publication. For her, being a writer and being an activist are the same.

Valenzuela arrived at SUNY Oswego with a community college background and two young children. It was a dismal period, and she was ready for change.

“At Oswego, I became my most power-filled self,” Valenzuela says. “My professors pushed me in directions I never knew I could travel. And, becoming a McNair scholar changed my life.”

The Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program prepares students from underserved populations to succeed in graduate school. With program mentors Dr. Patricia Clark, now English department chair, and former Oswego professor Ira Sukrungruang, Valenzuela wrote her thesis on “The Absent Cultural and Literary Voice of Young Chicana Mothers.”

“Dr. Clark called it ‘ambitious,’” Valenzuela says. “She was right. But I worked hard because I never wanted to let her down.” A move to San Antonio, precipitated by her father’s failing health, kept her from accepting a graduate school scholarship but enabled her to form friendships with some of the authors she studied: Sandra Cisneros, Josie Mendez Negrete, Lorna Dee Cervantes and Norma E. Cantu.

“Gloria Anzaldua’s work informed my thesis,” Valenzuela says, “and her best friend will be my doula this winter.”

Valenzuela will use the respite following her third child’s birth to write. She’ll begin a biography of her grandfather, whose music the Westside Horns played as she performed a dramatic reading at the citywide arts festival Luminaria San Antonio. She’ll complete a chapbook that reminds her of her studies with Professor Donna Steiner.

“She shaped my writing,” Valenzuela says. “I channel her every time I create. I have traveled far from Oswego, but I still carry all the good things that happened to me there.”

By Linda Loomis ’90 M’97

The earth as a mother
A blue planet
seeks to rock us to
in every echo and vibration
under the ground.
We tread here,
but she is the one who magnetizes
our steps to
her heart.

Viktoria Valenzuela ’10

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