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10 Questions for Robin Myers

Or as self-medicator,
or two-tongued song-
singer, or undersecretary of pre-dawn walks,
or any manner of other
offices. They’re just
conjectures. I still scrawl
my appointments on the back
of my hand, tend
to keep them.
—from “Poem for Self as Single Mother”, Spring 2019 (Vol. 60, Issue 1)

Tell us about one of the first pieces you wrote.
Sometime in high school, I wrote a poem about watching a lamb being born and nearly dying in the process (the lamb, not me!). I’d been experimenting with poetry for a while, but that was the first time I tried to grapple with an experience of both wonder and horror. Which I still see as one of poetry’s major purposes and possibilities.

What writer(s) or works have influenced the way you write now?
Larry Levis had a powerful effect on me for a long time. Robert Hass. Louise Glück. Kay Ryan. I still think of them as influences in the sense that they all remind me of many different things a poem can do. Lately I’ve found myself turning to George Oppen and Ilya Kaminsky.

What other professions have you worked in?
I work now as a Spanish-to-English translator, and I’ve previously worked in communications for human rights organizations.

What inspired you to write this piece?
Heading into my early thirties, I guess, and starting to think about my possible lives with a new sense of urgency, wistfulness, trepidation, and self-respect. Both the lives that are over and the ones that may be yet to come.

Is there a city or place, real or imagined, that influences your writing?
I’ve spent most of the last decade away from the US, where I grew up—first in Palestine, now Mexico. I think and write a lot about them both (Palestine as a place I’ve left and probably won’t return to in an abiding way; Mexico as my present-day reality), not to mention the weirdness and intensity of having a “relationship” to a place at all.

Is there any specific music that aids you through the writing or editing process?
I don’t tend to listen to music when I write. But I like writing in public places—cafés and parks and on public transit such—and I enjoy hovering in the background of other people’s music there.

Do you have any rituals or traditions that you do in order to write?
My writing habits are fickle and mostly un-ritualized. All I know for sure is that I write best early in the morning and it always helps to take a walk.

Who typically gets the first read of your work?
I’d say there are two: my partner, who’s a visual artist; and a close poet-and-translator friend who’s been a co-conspirator in lots of different projects.

If you could work in another art form what would it be?
Music, without question. I’m pretty much convinced that music is the best thing human beings are capable of.

What are you working on currently?
Slowly and haphazardly, I’m working on a collection of poems (I think?) that has something to do with the Mexican side of my family, looking back and forth between Mexico and the US over time. I’m interested in what we don’t know about where we came from—not with an intent to fill in the gaps, genealogically speaking, but just to think in broader terms about the generations of mysteries that have gotten us wherever we are today. Which include whatever forces of power and violence that operated on/through our ancestors, as well as the loves and losses and day-to-day banalities experienced by the strangers who unwittingly made us.

ROBIN MYERS is a New York–born, Mexico City-based poet and translator. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in the Harvard Review, PANK, Sixth Finch, Beloit Poetry Journal, Narrative Magazine, and Washington Square Review, among other publications. She is an alumna of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.

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