Wombwell Rainbow Interviews
I am honoured and privileged that the following writers local, national and international have agreed to be interviewed by me. I gave the writers two options: an emailed list of questions or a more fluid interview via messenger.
The usual ground is covered about motivation, daily routines and work ethic, but some surprises too. Some of these poets you may know, others may be new to you. I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I do.
Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
is the author of the full-length poetry collection Flashes & Verses… Becoming Attractions from Unsolicited Press, the poetry chapbook So Many Flowers, So Little Time from Red Mare Press. Between the Spine is a collection of erotic love poems published with Picture Show Press and La Belle Ajar, a collection of cento poems inspired by Sylvia Plath’s 1963 novel, to be published in 2020 by CLASH Books.
His poetry has been featured in Glass Poetry: Poets: Resist, Cultural Weekly, Frontier Poetry, Yes, Poetry, 24Hr Neon Magazine, Red Wolf Editions, poeticdiversity, The Wild Word, The Fem, Pussy Magic Press, Tiferet Journal, Rigorous, Palette Poetry, Rogue Agent Journal, Tin Lunchbox Review, Rhythm & Bones Lit, Anti-Heroin Chic, Neon Mariposa Magazine, The Yellow Chair Review and Lunch Ticket’s Special Issue: Celebrating 20 Years of Antioch University Los Angeles MFA in Creative Writing.
Adrian is an LA Poet who has a BA from the University of Texas at San Antonio and he is also a graduate of the MFA program at Antioch University in Los Angeles where he lives with his wife and their cat Woody Gold. You can connect with Adrian on his website: http://www.adrianernestocepeda.com/
1. What inspired you to write poetry?
It was listening to Jim Morrison and The Doors. When I was younger in my mind Jim’s songs were the essence of poetry. He was my gateway drug to the verse. I was lucky to have visited his grave at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris. I actually left Jim a poem and a rose to say thank you. He spoke to me, I felt his voice at his grave. urging me to return to America and follow my destiny to become a poet. True story, it was a life changing moment that day at the cemetery it snowed as I walked out of Père Lachaise. I owe my career to Jim Morrison.
2. Who introduced you to poetry?
Good question, when I was in elementary school I had a teacher Mr. Babcock who would have us memorize poems. We would then have to recite them in front of the class. This is I was first introduced to poetry and the first poet I loved was Robert Frost.
3. How aware were you of the dominating presence of older poets?
Frost was the first poet I learned about in elementary school. Later it was the Beat poets, Kerouac and Ginsburg that channelled the spark that Morrison and Frost had first glowed inside me. It wasn’t till I discovered Pablo Neruda and Sandra Cisneros that I found my true voice as a romantic love poet.
4. What is your daily writing routine?
Since I work as a Writing Specialist/Tutor at my MFA alma mater Antioch University Los Angeles, I set my alarm clock and wake up extra early to write. I always start my day with writing poetry. Something I learned from the late great Leonard Cohen. When he was at the monastery in the hills of Los Angeles, Cohen would wake up and write in the early morning in the dark. It’s the perfect time to write, so thanks to Leonard Cohen, I discovered my daily writing routine. I also have notepads around our apartment and in my car. So, if a line comes to me, I always write it down. I always say, if inspiration calls, you always have to accept the charges.
5. What motivates you to write?
It’s my calling. What I was born here to do: write poetry and inspire others to write, create and share their verses with the world. Mostly, I write now to transcribe memories that come to me from my past. Passions and fantasies that arrive from my carnal subconscious, like “Symbiosis” and “Mon Amor” that were published by Anti-Heroin Chic in 2018 and are both feature in Between the Spine: my erotic love poetry collection published by Picture Show Press ( ‘Symbosis” and “Mon Amor” that were published by Anti-Heroin Chic ) (Between the Spine: my erotic love poetry collection published by Picture Show Press.)
Sometimes I write a poem as an ode to writer, artist or someone who inspires me. Lately, current events and the travesty that this administration has brought to our beloved country inspired some poems. At Antioch Los Angeles, for my MFA, one of the tenants of this program and the main reason I attended AULA was their focus on social justice. Some of my best poems have this theme. One of my poems “Invisible Tan” published in 2018 by Rogue Agent Journal was inspired by Alejandra Sanchez’s MFA student presentation Words dipped in Honey in 2014 at Antioch LA and Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s Borderlands. Alejandra’s presentation was so inspiring that I remember writing down the first lines as she spoke. Still it took over four years and so many revisions and best of all, Rogue Agent Journal has nominated “Invisible Tan” for Best of the Net 2019 (http://www.rogueagentjournal.com/acepeda)
6. What is your work ethic?
For me it’s all about the poem. When an idea strikes me, I stop what I am doing and write it down. Eddie Vedder said it best: “I just try to always remember where that initial spark came from, and it’s like a pilot light, and I try to make sure that thing doesn’t go out.” Like I said before, I always have notepad’s around me around the house and even by my bed. Some nights the best lines and poems come to me before I fall asleep. Anytime is the right time for a poem. One time in 2011, I was camping with my wife and her family and I had this idea for a poem while we were at Point Mugu in Malibu. I remember being on the beach and seeing the lines in my head. I instantly ran back to our campsite. I recall while I was running, I began editing the lines in my head. When I made it back to the campfire I wrote down those lines.Cell phone dying near Point Mugu” was included in my first poetry collection Flashes & Verses… Becoming Attractions.
7. How do the writers you read when you were young influence you today?
I see the writers who I read when I was young as trailblazers who lead me on the path to other writers who have influenced me along the way. Frost led to Dickinson, which leads to Woolf. Jim Morrison lead to Baudelaire and the Beats. What I realized during my MFA program at Antioch Los Angeles the more I read, the better I wrote. Reading makes the poet. It opens doors to syntax, vocabulary and imagery. And the best writers inspire me to want to write my own poems.
8. Who of today’s writers do you admire the most and why?
Latinx poet’s like Anna Suarez’s erotic and empowering collection Papi Doesn’t Love Me No More published by CLASH Books, (Papi Doesn’t Love Me No More published by CLASH Books. )
Ariel Francisco who specializes in literary translation has a new poetry collection A Sinking Ship is Still a Ship from Burrow Press coming in 2020 (Ariel Francisco A Sinking Ship is Still a Ship from Burrow Press) and his poems are truly inspirational, Leza Cantoral is one of the founders of CLASH Books and I connect with her emo/pop culture inspired her poetry collection Trash Panda (https://www.clashbooks.com/new-products-2/leza-cantoral-trash-panda) and Chris Campanioni who is hybrid writer, who has a very motivating TedTalk “Living in Between.” Campanioni writes essays, poetry and fiction, who’s latest book is Drift (https://www.kingshotpress.com/shop/drift-by-chris-campanioni) published by King Shot Press, this multi-layered writer is fearless on and off the page. I connect with writers like these who are courageously rousing that their mastery of the language and la lengua make you want to immediately write your own poems after reading their masterful work. Coincidentally, Anna, Ariel, Leza, Chris and I will be on a panel at AWP 2020 in San Antonio. Our panel Latinx Poets: Speaking from El Corazon are looking forward are looking forward to sharing our experiences on how being a modern Latinx poet in today’s poetry community.
9. Why do you write, as opposed to doing anything else?
Any other career path I have attempted I’ve hit walls. Poetry is the one vocation that not only empowers me and gives me strength, writing poems inspires me to speak out and want to read my poems to students, other would be poets and those who have an affinity for the craft. Poetry is necessity as an art form that we need today now more than ever. Nothing feels better than crafting a resistance piece and having resonate with an audience who feels the creative fury I am challenging on the page. This is why I write to reflect, connect and inspire others with my gift of writing poetry.
10. What would you say to someone who asked you “How do you become a writer?”
Although I love it, being a writer is not as glorious as it sounds. To be successfully published and have a career as a writer you need to be 1000% devoted to your craft. Writing must always come first. You also need to surround yourself with likeminded creatives/artists/writers along with friends/loved ones who support you on your quest to become a writer. For me being a writer, no matter how many books or poems I have published is never ending, I am rarely satisfied with what I write. I know and I want to write better and challenge myself every day on and off the page. Being a successful writer is that, always not settling and challenging oneself on a daily basis. Making time for writing, reading, researching along with having time for your personal/family life. It’s a balance. I know so many writers that have children and I am amazed and have respect for them, because I don’t know how they do it. I have so much respect for those with large families as I know how hard enough it is for me and I am lucky to have a home with my cat and my wife. That’s the key, my wife supports and believe in me. You need to have that support system that believes in you when you have those down days. Most importantly is keeping an even mindset, Benecio Del Toro said it best, “Turn down the volume of your Expectations, and Turn up the volume of your Perseverance,” not to get too low with rejections or too elated with publications. I love being a writer. It’s the hardest and most fulfilling job I’ve had in my life. And every day I wake up, I am excited about what I am going to write today.
11. Tell me about the writing projects you have on at the moment.
I have my third book La Belle Ajar, a collection of cento poems inspired by Sylvia Plath’s 1963 novel to be published summer 2020 by CLASH Books. I am working on a collection of poems inspired by mi Mami who passed away two years ago. I also have a chapbook of political poems that I would love to publish to inspire students and other young voters to cast their ballots before the election in 2020. Like I mentioned before, I am moderating a panel with Anna Suarez, Ariel Francisco, Leza Cantoral and Chris Campanioni for AWP 2020 in San Antonio. Our panel Latinx Poets: Speaking from El Corazon is one that I have dreaming of moderating for years. I was one of the lucky ones to have their panels chosen by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. It’s a full circle moment for me. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Texas at San Antonio so presenting at AWP in the city where I first started my career as a writer is emotionally significant for me. I am looking forward to 2020 and beyond to see where my poetry takes me.