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This poet wants us to unlearn the words, ‘Sorry to be a woman’

Long before Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo movement, poets like McKayla Robbin, Rupi Kaur and Yrsa Daley-Ward were writing fierce and empowering poems about the female experience, including about sexual harassment and other abuse women face. Their message: talk about it, come together as women, that it’s okay to feel hurt but also important to stand strong.

“I have seen women wrap their lives quietly in parentheses, while men take over whole countries with their fists,” McKayla Robbin writes in her 2016 collection “we carry the sky.” And: “forget everything you learned before, your body is not a war, it is a celebration.”

Now, Robbin’s collection has been turned into a short film in which women from different ages, backgrounds and stages of life read her powerful lines of poetry. Elizabeth Masucci, an actress, producer and director who has previously directed films using poetry written by women, including Maya Angelou and Meghan O’Rourke, said she wanted to bring Robbin’s poetry to life because it addressed dark topics, such as sexual assault, “while at the same time including grace, nature, beauty, and unity.”

“we carry the sky” was published in December 2016, just two months after the Hollywood Access tape surfaced showing President Donald Trump making lewd comments about women, something that Robbin said was on her mind as she wrote. A month later, millions of women participated in the Women’s March on Washington and other cities around the world.

“At the time I was writing I had become disillusioned with academic poetry and how far removed it seemed from everyday people.” said Robbin. “And so I wanted this poetry to feel like a vehicle for change instead… I wanted it to feel like a tapestry of an inter-generational women’s movement.”

Both women said the poetry feel resonant again after the Weinstein revelations and #MeToo stories that women (and some men, too) are sharing around the world. Masucci said that for her, the poems also reflect the conversations now happening among women in the entertainment industry around empowerment and community.

“I do hope the poetry and film can act as an empowerment tool for women to come forward,” said Robbin. “Seeing all these different women speak in the film, it’s showing that there is a community and there is a support system. That you are strong and important and part of something greater than yourself. And that you are supported whether your decision is to speak up or do it in some other way.”

Watch the short film above or read one of Robbin’s poems from her 2016 collection below.

by McKayla Robbin

you sister are the sound
of the color of
a flower
and when they
out of their own insecurity
try to silence you
you must bloom

McKayla Robbin is a poet from Charleston, South Carolina. “we carry the sky” is her first poetry collection. She is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in poetry at The College of Charleston. Follow her on Instagram @bymckayla

Elizabeth Masucci is an actress, producer, & director based in New York City. As a director and producer, she has been adapting poems, written by women, into short films. Featured poets include Maya Angelou, Meghan O’Rourke, Safiya Sinclair and McKayla Robbin. Follow her on Twitter @lizmasucci