We were smitten by the work of McKayla Robbin after reading her poetry chapbook, We carry the sky. After the book review, we asked if she would be happy to answer a few questions we have regarding her writing style which has taken shape of contemporary poetry style currently.
So, here’s McKayka Robbin for you on poetry, punctuation, and publishing:
Did you always want to be a writer, or were you inspired by something that made you want to become one?
I’ve wanted to write since I was a little girl — probably age six or so. It’s easy as a kid to say that you want to be a poet — people think it’s cute. But it’s the kind of dream that most people expect you to give up eventually — the response is always, “Okay, but what are you going to do to pay the bills?” I’m lucky to have family and friends who are outrageously supportive of my dreams, and that’s kept me going on the most difficult days.
Now there’s this whole slew of modern poets — Rupi Kaur, Nayyirah Waheed, Amanda Lovelace, Lang Leav — who are making a living by writing poetry (and who started out as self-published authors). I hope their success inspires more kids to pursue poetry as a profession. Our world needs more poets.
Why do you not use capital letters? Is it an inspiration from Cummings, or some other writer or is it symbolic of rebellion?
Whether or not to use capital letters is something I think about a lot — what a perfect question! I’ve loved Cummings since high school, and in college and graduate school I discovered Lucille Clifton, and more recently I’ve fallen in love with the world of populist, short-form Feminist poets, who often do not use lowercase letters. When there are no capital letters on the page, each letter holds the same amount of weight — it bespeaks an equality of sorts.
So, for we carry the sky, the lowercase aesthetic made sense to me as an artist and also suited the book’s themes of feminism, minimalism, etc.
How difficult was it, publishing your first book? What was the dynamics involved? On the scale of 1-10, how difficult would you say it actually is?
Publishing we carry the sky was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most rewarding! I spent six months holed away at the Jersey shore — I was reading, writing, editing, revising, and sequencing from 9 AM – 5 PM (sometimes later) every day, even on the days when I hated everything I’d written and wanted to quit and felt less than inspired.
I’ve always heard that the most difficult part of publishing a book is sitting down, doing the work, and trusting that if you do the work day in and day out, your book will come together eventually. There’s a Cheryl Strayed quote that goes,
“Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write…Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.”
This quote was a touchstone for me — it helped get me through the anxiety and self-doubt that so often accompanies the publishing process.
Will you be writing again? Will there be a sequel to your collection? Or will you step into another genre?
I know I have more books in me, but I’m not sure what they are yet! My plan is to publish once per year. I think I want to stick with poetry for the time being, but I doubt my next collection will be a sequel to we carry the sky. In my mind, we carry the sky is a stand alone book — I think a sequel would ruin the power of it.
My next collection might play with some of the same themes, though. I’m taking a little poetry “breather” right now to promote we carry the sky, but my brain is constantly thinking of what my next project might be.
So, where do you see yourself in say 20 years? Will you still be writing or are there any other plans you may have — novels, script writing, fighting for women’s rights, etc?
Let’s see — in twenty years, I’ll be forty-six, and hopefully I’m living in a little house with a big yard somewhere near the ocean, and still writing, of course! I’d love to eventually write a novel — it’d be a dream to write a novel that’s eventually turned into a film. Novel writing and script writing are two genres I’ve always wanted to dip my toes into. And, I want to continue working as an activist for women’s rights, environmental rights, etc — who knows what issues we’ll be facing in 2036!
What message would you like to give to the poets who are still scared to show their work to anyone?
I want to tell them how incredibly supportive the poetry and book reading community is. Publishing has helped me connect with the most amazing people, both locally and via social media. I’ve found that poets really want to help other poets succeed — so take the leap and put your stuff out there! Your worst fears won’t come true.
About McKayla Robbin: She holds a masters degree in Fine Arts – Poetry program from San Diego State University. Her work has previously been published in publications like Poetry International, Charleston Magazine, and The San Diego Poetry Annual. Check out her work at mckaylarobbin.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter @mckayla_robbin.
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