Interview with McKayla Robbin

McKayla Robbin is a writer from Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with a B.A. in English from The College of William and Mary and studied in the Master of Fine Arts – Poetry program at San Diego State University. Her work engages themes of femininity, identity and healing. Her book “We Carry The Sky”is out now .

1.How important is accessibility of meaning? Should one have to work hard to “solve” the poem?
I think the importance of accessibility varies from poet to poet, from poem to poem. “We Carry The Sky” is meant to be an easily accessible collection , a collection that anyone (even those who don’t typically see themselves as poetry readers) can pick up and read and enjoy without puzzling through it. But there’s value, too, in puzzling through a poem — in discovering a poem’s layers. I think the best poems call you back to read and reread them ,the best poems make you feel something on the first read-through, something a bit deeper on the second read-through, and so on.
2 .What are you trying to communicate with your art?
 I hope ‘we carry the sky’ helps people( women especially )feel like they’re not alone. Like they have allies and friends in this strange, harsh world. Like they are capable of facing their demons, of making a difference, of turning the so-called “impossible” into reality.
3.What inspires you to write poetry?
So much : the sky on certain days; small injustices and small kindnesses; big questions about the world; loneliness; love and heartbreak. If I’m feeling stuck, I go on a walk or I read the newspaper or a new book of poetry. There’s so much to write about , so much to explore , and not nearly enough time in the day.
4.What is a measure of success as a poet? 
 Defining success is tricky no matter what your profession is. For me, success means creating something I’m proud of and, maybe more importantly, success means keeping at it , continually learning and honing my craft, not giving up until I am proud of what I’ve created.
5.Who are some of your favorite poets?
Most recently : Nayyirah Waheed, Adrienne Rich, Lucille Clifton, Sylvia Plath.
6.What makes a poem “good” ?
 For me (and I’m sure everyone has their own criteria), a “good” poem makes me see something in a way I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise; a “good” poem pulls a feeling out of me : a feeling so deep, so intrinsic to myself that I needed a poem to name it. As Emily Dickinson says, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”
7.What advice do you have for aspiring poets?
 Aside from the stereotypical but necessary advice of “keep reading and writing,” I’d only add: keep your chin up. Poetry is necessary :what you’re doing is necessary. Believe that.
8.Why is poetry important?
 Where to begin? Our world needs visionaries :people who see patterns hidden in the world around them; who see relationships between unlike things; who see beauty or heartbreak where others only see mundanity. Poets, musicians, artists: these are our world’s visionaries. Poetry has saved the world from itself more than once.
9.How does a poem begin for you, with an idea , a form or an image?
 Usually, an idea ,often in the form of a line or two , pops into my head. I’ll play around with this idea, adding different images and seeing where language leads the poem. I’m always grateful for these initial lines because they spark the rest of the poem, but usually they don’t make it into the final draft!
10.Where do you write?
I like to write by a window :whether that’s in my room, in a coffee shop, wherever. My thoughts flow better when I can look outdoors every so often.
11.Do you read all of your book reviews and how do you react to them ?
 I do not read my book reviews on Goodreads anymore. It became a source of anxiety for me and made it difficult to write new material! I do, however, read book reviews by bloggers if they send me the link directly.
12.How long did you work on the book ? 
 “We Carry The Sky” took eight months to finish: I holed up in a little house on the Jersey shore, writing and editing every day from 9-5 (sometimes later). It was one of the most difficult, and rewarding , things I’ve ever done.
13. Can you describe your book in three word ? 
  Modern, feminist and  journey.
14.Do you have anything to say to your readers ?
Thank you so much to McKayla for helping me out with the interview and for her wonderful answers ! You can find her book “We Carry The Sky” below :

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