What is striking about the poem is its obvious lack of capital letters.
It leaves you with an ambiguous feeling; you begin to wonder if it is the poet’s way of rebelling against the rules, or is it a way to be creative or is it in some way, symbolic. The feeling however, sticks and works. You are thrown into an abyss of words and questions.
As you begin to read, you tend to realize that the poem doesn’t just lack capital letters but also skirts around other rules of grammar. There is hardly any commas, full stops or a pattern throughout – in fact the headings are the poems that seem to slide into pages, leaving pages blank on their escapade.
In her first poetry collection, McKayla Robbin tries to strike a chord with her readers, and at some instances she does. With the help of her work, ‘we carry the sky’, it can be felt that she wishes to bring about a sense of togetherness. The obvious use of the word ‘we’, the dedication to ‘us’ and a claim that the blood in ‘our’ veins is that of ‘our’ mothers. It is a call to women, across the globe, across generations, across mythical and fantastical to realize that ‘we’ are all in this together. Question is, does it work? Is it revolutionary? Does it strike the chord it plays at? It leaves you with a question that it itself seems to evade.
The collection of poems is divided into four parts. Part 1 works around themes such as feminism, sexual assault, pain, among others. The poems in all their vulnerability seem raw, extremely raw.
Is it a good, or is it a bad? The question is not for one to wonder because the poems are specific enough that any opinion, will be a relation to a person’s feeling towards the theme.
However, the poems, with all their dips into pain, sorrow and violence are evasive. As if the poems were sand, and you were just about trying to grab on to it. The truth is, you can’t. The reader tries to rush from one poem to another, which makes one wonder if the work was meant to be read in one go, or if it was meant to be read on the basis of its themes.
The latter is questionable, knowing for a fact that the poems to not begin with their headings – they end with them.
Part two of the work seems to be a collection of scattered thoughts. They move around topics such as motherland, diversity, globalization, planet, activism, global warming, boundaries, etc. One stops distinguishing between poems but reads it as a long monologue, that seems to be synonymous with the stream of consciousness style.
The question is the relation of part 2 with the title, it stops being a book about togetherness between women but then it moves into the paradigm of all men. It doesn’t seem to work. The poem loses its characteristic theme. The style, however, becomes more evasive.
Nonetheless, one of the best poems, which is just one word is powerful and the only poem that stands out as the best among all. It is sad, hopeful, striking and moving all in one. The poem, in its simplicity, seems to astonish and in its way, works!
Part three of the collection is about love. The way the poet captures the different forms of love is beautiful. It moves from unrequited love to heartbreak, to loving yourself, to loving your body and to accepting love. The poet writes,
‘love is love is love’
The idea is beautiful, innocent and revolutionary. It is about accepting the simple fact that, love moves beyond the restraints of society since love knows no barriers. The poems sway, like a child’s swing into the past and the future, almost touching the present but moving again.
Is it a good feeling? – Yes.
Is it optimistic? – Yes.
Is it revolutionary? – Yes.
It seems like the poet’s way of saying that if there is something you wish to fight for, why not make it love!
Part four, however, takes it all away. It is passion, it is love, it is giving, and it is forgiving. It is the poet’s way of saying, ‘Get up! You’ve still got some life in you.’
The fourth and final part of the collection is nothing less than astonishingly powerful. It is more of an embrace, from the women that seem to have carried the world without faltering. It is a part to hold your breath and leave it only until the very end. The poems in this section, move from one page to another to another. They seem to be like a brook lost in its errand, ever moving into an abyss of a long forgotten dream of happiness. It is far and lost, the idea of happiness but the feeling of its absence is what makes it ever present. It is as if the revolution of the centuries has found its conclusion.
If three parts work to strengthen the sense of togetherness, while one part is a stand-alone work, the most striking part of it is how the poet brings together women from works of fiction and non-fiction together.
She brings in the likes of Cleopatra, Helen of Troy, Sleeping Beauty, Medusa and the sisters of Cinderella, breaking the barriers of truth and reality and imagination to show every other woman that we are all in this together. Amidst, pain, sorrow, freedom and love, we are all one and the same.
It is a reminder that they too are women that they too had a similar burden to carry, that all women share the burden that they wish someone else could or would or should carry. It is a celebration of love, life and of feminism. It is about understanding that we carry the sky within us, above us, sometimes as a burden and sometimes as a passion but in the end, the only fight that we have to fight is the one that lets us be who we are.
About the poet: McKayla Robbin studied in the Master of Fine Arts – Poetry program at San Diego State University and has a B.A. in English from The College of William and Mary. Her work has previously been published in publications like Poetry International, Charleston Magazine, and The San Diego Poetry Annual. Find out more about her at mckaylarobbin.com or follow her on Instagram and Twitter @mckayla_robbin.