John Phillip Santos speaks among family

“I feel like I’m reading among family members and with family members,” UTSA faculty member John Phillip Santos told the considerable audience at the start of his creative writing reading on Friday, Feb. 17.

Accompanied by an acoustic guitarist, Santos explained that he appreciates the rhythmic music in the background because it “makes [the reading] feel meaningful.”

Whatever his reasons for having a guitarist may be, Santos made the reading meaningful. He read with such conviction that it would have been hard to be distracted by the background music.

The audience was invited into his world when he read excerpts from his two memoirs, “Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation” and “The Farthest Home is an Empire of Fire.” Santos also read selected poems from his collection “Songs Older Than Any Known Singer.”

It’s interesting to know who inspires an author like Santos who, has accomplished so much. One literary mentor of his was Laura (Riding) Jackson, who he described as being a “fitful poet.” Towards the end of his reading, Santos displayed a quote from his mentor: “I propose that you seek in yourselves remembrance of the Before, and write what you find, and believe your words.” Santos has surely done just that with his memoirs– “Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation” was a finalist for the National Book Award. A former Rhodes Scholar, Professor Santos holds degrees in English Literature and Language from Oxford University and Philosophy and Literature from the University of Notre Dame.

Professor Santos has also been inspired by Japanese screens which led to the creation of a collection of poems called “The November Screens.” He said he wanted to write poems that have the shape of the screen- long and rectangular, like Japanese screens that can be interchanged.

A student in the audience asked Professor Santos what legacy he wants to leave with his writing. He answered, “I want the books to unsettle people with regard to who they think they are.” Santos’ writing transcends cultural borders. He told the audience, “If we are from everywhere, we have a right to be anywhere… and no borders will stand.”