Miguel-Angel Zapata was introduced to the arts in his hometown of Lima, Peru, where, as a young boy, he attended a private school for painting. Frustrated with the medium, and his inability to depict what was in his mind's eye, he realized he would never be a successful painter and turned away from the arts for a brief period of time. By the time he entered high school though, he had found his true calling in poetry and literature, a passion that has never abandoned him, and that he hopes never will.
Realizing that a university setting would be beneficial for a poet, Professor Zapata was led to his current profession, which enables him to teach others while writing books of poetry and literary criticism, as well as books about other subjects that interest him. Ironically perhaps, his forthcoming book ponders the relationship between poetry and the visual arts, and painting in particular. When comparing writing poems to creating textiles, and in this case the intricate textiles of Matisse, he says, they both require "the same concentration, the same peace, and the same patience."
Professor Zapata is an associate professor of Latin American literature in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and has been teaching at Hofstra University since 2001. Prior to his position at Hofstra, he taught at universities worldwide, including universities in Chile, Peru, Mexico and the United States. He has studied at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru, and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. To date, he has written eight books of poetry in Spanish, one of which, titled A Sparrow in the House of Seven Patios, was translated into English last year. He is also the author of several books of essays, critical editions, interviews and anthologies. Professor Zapata received the Latino Literature Prize and the Hostos Essay Award in 2003. His poetry has been lauded by many, including Alvaro Mutis and Mario Vargas Llosa, recipients of the Miguel de Cervantes Literature Prize; Billy Collins, America's 2002-03 poet laureate; and Carlos G. Belli, Peruvian poet laureate.
The subjects of his poetry are often two that tend to be conflicting: the spiritual and animals (or bestiary). Dogs, cats, birds, the deserts and jogging over the dead* are some of his subjects, he says. He lives on Long Island and owns many of his own animals, including a snake that he claims belongs to his daughter. And although he likes to play tennis if the weather is right for it, at any time of year you can find him bike riding or taking long walks, where he continues to commune with nature and conjure more ideas and more poems. -WB
*See "Thighs Upon the Grass" from A Sparrow in the House of Seven Patios (2005).
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