#TPQ5: Esteban Rodriguez

Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s language, syntactical style, and the themes he centers his work around heavily influenced the descriptions of the landscape in my first collection, “Dusk & Dust.” Although McCarthy has not had a book out in over a decade, his work is, for me, and excuse the cliché, timeless, and I know that I will keep returning to his words long into the future.

The Art of the Lathe – B.H. Fairchild

The poetry collection examines ordinary people and everyday events, mainly from the Midwest, and it makes them extraordinary in ways I didn’t think were possible.

Borderlands/La Fronteray: The New Metiza – Gloria Anzaldúa

This book was critically important to my development not just as a poet, but a writer who had yet to understand that they do not exist in a vacuum, that the history of my home (the Rio Grande Valley) wasn’t as black and white I might have assumed it to be. Her semi-autobiographical work mixes essays and poems that draw on her life experiences, and though I might not have had those exact same experiences, I understood them and could relate to them in a way that felt personal, that spoke to my identity as a Mexican American, and that gave me the confidence to write about the most intimate details of my experiences.

Traci Brimhall

Her collections Rookery, Our Lady of the Ruins, and most recently Saudade have opened up worlds that transport me both as a reader and person. I read her poems as fables of sort (meaning that there is a certain sense of universality and timelessness to her work), and I quickly wanted to emulate and create a style of my own that had that same power and importance.

Hart Crane

Specifically his poem “My Grandmother’s Love Letters.” Many writers can point to a moment or event that influenced their reasons for becoming writers, and I can undoubtedly point to this poem as giving me that necessary push to pursue writing seriously. Some would characterize Crane’s poetry as “difficult” or “challenging,” and while I would undoubtedly agree (getting through sections of “The Bridge” still requires cups of coffee and extended silence), this particular poem was accessible in my early formation as a writer. Because my grandmother had just died, I latched onto this poem for a while, connected it with my grandmother’s journey from Mexico to the United States, and studied how Crane created a piece that was lyrical and heartwarming.


Esteban Rodríguez is the author of the collections Dusk & Dust (Hub City Press 2019), Crash Course (Saddle Road Press 2019), In Bloom (SFASU Press 2020), and (Dis)placement (Skull + Wind Press 2020). His poetry has appeared in The Gettysburg Review, New England Review, TriQuarterly, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. He is the Interviews Editor for the EcoTheo Review, a regular reviews contributor for PANK, and a poetry reader for BOAAT. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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