Q&A with Poetry Contributor Kathryn Merwin

Kathryn Merwin is a native of Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, BoothNatural Bridge, Blackbird, and Sugar House Review, among others. She has been awarded the Nancy D. Hargrove Editors' Prize for Poetry, the Blue Earth Review Annual Poetry Prize, a 2017 Sixfold Award, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is currently pursuing her MFA at Western Washington University. Her poem “Skins” will appear in the Fall 2017 issue of Carve.


How did you discover the structure of "Skins," and how do you hope that structure will affect the reader's experience? 

I sectioned "Skins" into ten numbered parts in order to move the reader along through a stretch of time. Each section is meant to evoke a different moment. Ultimately, they tell the same story. The ending leads back to the beginning and it all moves cyclically. 

Do you have a favorite section in this poem? What do you love about it? 

My favorite section of the poem would probably be the ninth. It's the most evocative to me personally of specific memories from my childhood and what I can learn from it now.

For me, the poem draws attention to objectification of the speaker's body by blurring the line between her body and the spaces she inhabits. Are objectification and personal space themes that you often explore in your work? What are some other themes you are often drawn to? 

I definitely use objectification as a theme in my writing. I like to write anatomically and explore the way a person's body interacts with and is influenced by her surroundings. I often write on the very broad theme of relationships, most of which do not fit a specific category. Familial ones, romantic ones, abusive ones, and the ones that don't fit into any lines and can be a bit blurry. I also write in a narrative style frequently and have recently been writing on the theme of physical dependence. 

Why do you think it is important to submit or share your work publicly? 

I want my work to be accessible to people who have shared experiences similar to those of my speakers. It's really important to write about the things that are difficult to talk about. I hope that my poems are confrontational and make my readers somewhat uncomfortable so that they can engage with a new perspective and enter the conversation.