Rosemary Catacalos was born in St. Petersburg, Florida but was raised in eastern San Antonio, Texas. Catacalos was of Greek and Mexican descent. She moved to San Francisco in 1989 for a Stegner Creative Writing Fellowship at Stanford University and remained there to direct the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University for a decade before returning to her native city.
Catacalos was the author of three poetry collections, including Again for the First Time (Tooth of Time Books, 1984), winner of the 1985 Texas Institute of Letters Poetry Prize. The collection was rereleased by Wings Press in 2013 as a thirtieth-anniversary edition, with a foreword by friend and fellow poet Naomi Shihab Nye, and an afterword by Arthur Sze. A posthumous collection, Sing the ¡!, is expected to be released after Catacalos’s former colleague, Jim LaVilla-Havelin, edits the manuscript and finds a publisher.
Catacalos received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1993 and became the first Latina to serve as Texas Poet Laureate in 2013. She was also the recipient of a Dobie Paisano Fellowship and was featured in The Best American Poetry.
In addition to serving as the former executive director of the Poetry Center/American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University, Catacalos became the executive director of the literary organization Gemini Ink in San Antonio, where she extended the Writers in Communities program, which included working with incarcerated youth. Additionally, Catacalos served the Texas Commission for the Arts, was a Poetry Out Loud judge, and was employed as a newspaper reporter and arts columnist, a grant reviewer, a development officer for nonprofit organizations, and a creative writing instructor. From 1986–89, she was the literature program director at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, where she developed the San Antonio Inter-American Book Fair.
Catacalos died of lung cancer on June 17, 2022 after battling the illness for seven years. She was seventy-eight.