Andrés Cerpa is the author of the poetry collection Bicycle in a Ransacked City: An Elegy (Alice James Books, January 15, 2019). A recipient of fellowships from the McDowell Colony and Canto Mundo, his work has appeared in Ploughshares, Poem-A-Day, the Kenyon Review, the Rumpus, Frontier Poetry, West Branch, Foundry Journal, Wildness and elsewhere.
On your nightstand now:
Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao and Moon Woke Me Up Nine Times, selected poems of Bashō, translated by David Young.
In different ways these books pay attention to the world and are able to articulate that attention with precision. In so many of Rao's sentences I find myself on the other side of a trap door, surprised, fearful and in awe of the world I've been given.
Favorite book when you were a child:
My parents bought me a set of abridged classics for children. The set was wonderful, I had access to these grand and beautiful stories. I particularly loved my small A Tale of Two Cities.
Your top five authors:
Book you've faked reading:
To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm sorry.
Book you're an evangelist for:
domina Un/blued by Ruth Ellen Kocher! I simply have never read a book like it. Kocher is absolutely brilliant, the depths of history and feeling that exist in those pages, and the language she forms to hold them, is remarkable and important.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The End by Fernanda Torres and Lighthead by Terrance Hayes.
Book you hid from your parents:
Book that changed your life:
The Selected Larry Levis. My first poetry teacher, Jeanne Murray Walker, gave me the book as a gift during my senior year of college. Since, Levis's work has nourished me in myriad ways. Not only was I astonished by the expansive imagination in the poems, I was, and continue to be, fascinated by Levis's development from book to book. I continually study his trajectory in an effort to move myself forward as a writer, poem by poem, book by book.
Favorite line from a book:
I'm going to cheat a bit on this question. My favorite lines are from the dedication page of East of Eden by John Steinbeck, which is addressed to his friend Pascal "Pat" Covici:
"Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts--the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation. And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you. And still, the box is not full."
Five books you'll never part with:
Walking to Martha's Vineyard by Franz Wright. After my father died this was the book I turned to. I am eternally grateful for its presence in my life.
The Selected Larry Levis.
The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos. I read this on my grandparents' hammock in Puerto Rico. I remember thinking, there is so much life in this book, it holds a world.
Geography III by Elizabeth Bishop. Bishop builds a book that is at once absolutely clear and deeply mysterious in its construction.
Moments of the Italian Summer by James Wright. This book gives me hope for the future and fills me with gratitude.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Shall We Gather at the River by James Wright.
The most important books you teach:
These are the works that blow my college students away and have fed their writing and thinking in wonderful ways.
There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker, Citizen by Claudia Rankine, Virgin by Analicia Sotelo, We the Animals by Justin Torres, Look by Solmaz Sharif.