Story of a Poet: Interview with Emma Robinson ‘24

Grace Bromage ‘23

Chief Features Editor

Each year, the Academy of American Poets collaborates with colleges around the United States to sponsor poetry competitions amongst the schools’ students. At Holy Cross, this year’s prize-winner is first-year Emma Robinson ‘24. I had a chance to interview Robinson about her poem, experience as a writer, and experience entering this contest: 

1) Could you tell me a bit about what your poem, Naucum?

Stylistically, Naucum is written in alliterative verse. I’m familiar with the form because of my interest in Tolkien, so I was curious to see what it’d be like to write in, and the fact that it lends itself well to myths and epics suited me fine! I ended up pleased with my choice; I think the alliteration makes the atmosphere quieter and more reflective than rhyme would’ve.

I hesitate to define what Naucum is about thematically, since the great thing about art is that it often reaches beyond the creator’s conscious understanding. I will say, however, that one of the inspirations for Naucum is The Dream of a Ridiculous Man, whose 1992 adaptation I’d highly recommend if you like Naucum. It’s a beautiful film.

2) What does your creative writing process look like?

My writing always starts with a simple seed, which is whatever first inspired me. Sometimes it’s an emotion I want to convey, sometimes it’s an unusual premise, sometimes it’s just a single phrase or image. Once I have it, though, I can start fleshing out the larger work by asking various questions. What gave me that emotion, and how could my story have the same effect on the reader? If that premise were real, what would its implications be? What might be that image’s backstory? Much of the story/poem is already embedded in the original spark; it’s just a matter of coaxing it out.

If I can’t develop a finished idea immediately, that’s okay. I’ll just brainstorm things I could add to complete it, like putting puzzle pieces alongside each other and seeing what fits. I’ll know it’s not right if I start to lose the original idea’s atmosphere. Then I just take out whatever’s changing it and keep trying until I’m content.

3) When did you first start writing or know you wanted to write?

I’ve been telling myself stories since I was little. I loved to create adventures and to mentally combine my favorite elements of my favorite books into big ultra-narratives I could imagine. I don’t remember exactly how this evolved from a simple diversion to an actual interest, but I have a vague recollection of my mother telling me one day that I had so many ideas, I should consider writing them down sometime. I’d never before thought of an author as something I could actually be, but once I did, I stuck to the idea.

4) What inspired you to submit a poem to the Academy of American Poets? What was that process like? How does it feel to know that your poem was accepted?

I found out about the Academy from an email HC sent out. It seemed like a great opportunity because when I write on my own time, I sometimes have a hard time getting anything down because I’m so afraid of not getting it perfect. The deadline meant I had to complete the poem by a certain date, and I didn’t have to worry so much about it being my ultimate creation. The poem’s better for that. I’m so honored that it was selected! It means the world to get that positive feedback from a professional artist.

5) Is there anything else you want the Holy Cross community to know about your work or you as a poet? Any advice for other poets/writers?

For advice: It’s easy to look at what kind of writing is currently getting praise, from critics or sales, and think that you have to write exactly like that to be an artist. You don’t. It doesn’t matter what genres/topics you choose as long as you strive for excellence in them. No story, no medium, is too inconsequential — or too lofty — to convey truth and beauty. And if you write what you want to write, you’ll be happier for it.

For myself, I’m still such a new writer that I don’t have any further definitive statements to make about my work. I just hope some of the people at HC will consider reading my poem with an open mind for analyzing it. And I hope I’ll be able to produce many more works in the coming years!

Photo courtesy of Emma Robinson ’24

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