Award-winning American poet, Adrian Ernesto Cepeda :
"Poetry makes us stop, slow down and take in the moment."
Interviewed by Elham Nosrati
May 21, 2019
Photography by Rachael Warecki
This week we had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, an Award-winning American poet with over one hundred and twenty-five poems published in over a hundred publications including Cultural Weekly, Frontier Poetry, Pasadena City College's Inscape Magazine, Yes, Poetry, Neon Mariposa Magazine, Palette Poetry and 24Hr Neon Magazine. He is the author of Flashes & Verses… Becoming Attractions from Unsolicited Press, the erotic love poetry collection Between the Spine published with Picture Show Press, the limited edition poetry chapbook So Many Flowers, So Little Time from Red Mare Press and La Belle Ajar, inspired by Sylvia Plath’s 1963 novel, which will be published by CLASH Books in 2020. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian Ernesto Cepeda about how poetry affects our daily life decisions.
Q1) How reading poetry can change our daily life decisions?
Poetry makes us stop, slow down and take in the moment. Poetry is about reflection, connection, beauty, love, longing, lust, desire and inspiration. These are elements that we can use in our daily lives. If more people read and wrote poetry, using their anger and/or angst as a gift to create, our world, as a whole would be a much better place to live.
Q2) In which ways reading poetry from poets across the globe can influence us?
The problem with the world today is that we are all separated into our own little covens, groups and cliques. Reading poetry from other cultures opens our minds, imaginations and hearts to ways of life and languages that are different than our own and this is the first step for tearing down walls. Read Naomi Shiab Nye’s poem “Gate A-4.”
“And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.”
Every time I read this poem I weep. I feel like if there’s a poem that can change the world, it’s Nye’s. This is a world I want to live in.
Q3) Who are your favorite poets from across the globe and what make them distinguished for you?
We need to read poets like Kaveh Akbar, Leila Chatti, Arminé Iknadossian, Amy Shimshon Santo, Aruni Wijesinghe. I love the way their poems are vulnerable and powerful in the same breath. These poets make the personal universal. Something I try to accomplish in every poem I write. These are the poets leading the way and they inspire me daily.
Q4) What is poetry to you? Both as a reader and a poet.
I feel like Muriel Rukeyser said it best “Breathe in experience, breathe out poetry.” Poetry to me gives me focus, life and inspiration. When I am reciting my poetry it’s one of the few moments when I truly feel whole. When the words flow out of my mouth, I am truly myself. I am lucky to have found my calling and poetry to me is a gift. Being able to read and write poetry, to do something that I truly love, every day of my life is rare, and I am so thankful. The poets I read, rather it be Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Sandra Cisneros, Pablo Neruda, Tiana Clark, Ingrid Calderon Collins, Joanna C. Valente, Alma Luz Villanueva, Gayle Brandeis, Leanne Hunt, they all reflect, spark me to embrace the magic of their verse while inspiring my own poetry. Mary Oliver said it best, “I read the way a person might swim, to save his or her life. I wrote that way too.” The poets that I read make me what to write, to connect better with my own audience. The poets that I read make me love and appreciate the craft as the calling I discovered for my life.
Q5) Is there a certain piece of poetry that you read often? Can you please share that with us?
There are two and they are both by Tiana Clark, a Nashville poet who has two collections in print, The first being Equilibrium and her latest book I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood. The first poem is “Nashville” that was published in The New Yorker. Clark’s poetry epitomizes of a poet making her personal voice a universal one and “Nashville” is a powerfully, empowering poem. The ending of her poem sends shivers.
“Once my mother-in-law said Watch your back, and I knew exactly
what she meant. Again. I turned around to find I am the breath
of Apollo panting at the back of Daphne’s wild hair, chasing words
like arrows inside the knotted meat between my shoulder blades—
four violent syllables stabbing my skin, enamored with pain.
I am kissing all the trees—searching the mob, mumbling to myself:
Who said it?
Who said it?
Who said it?”
You can feel the speaker’s fury, the pain and the power within these lines. The best poems, you can read a hundred times and every time you discover something new. “Nashville” is this poem to me.
The other is “The Rime of Nina Simone” from her new poetry collection. I love Nina Simone and the way that the speaker in this poem speaks to the ghost of Nina Simone is so vivid and illuminatingly real.
Back to her grace
Humming something familiar
I cannot name
I almost catch the hem of her song
But it slips as she slips away.
I walk to class. My spine, a grounded state
Lit with liquid brass and burning peaches.
Bewitched—read to flame I enter the room—
Clark’s poem was so personal that it instantly took me back to a similar yet different experience that happened to me during my twenties when I visited Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. Although her poem, the subject of the poem was different, the universal voice inspired me to write an epic poem like her Simone poem. I need to thank her because my Morrison poem was accepted for publication and will be in print November 2019.
This is what I love about the art of poetry. How a poet from a different voice and background can inspire another. This is the magic of poetry. This is the reason I seek out poets like Tiana Clark. They not only make me want to find poets from round the world that have experiences and voices different than my own. Most of all, they make me want to evoke my best and most personal voice on the page. This is the priceless gift poets like Tiana Clark give me every day of my life as a poet. Viva La Poesia!
For Adrian Ernesto Cepeda 's Website: