February 8, 2018
Levina Robin (Washington, '16) has always been a writer, but this year she published a book for the first time. Word Constellations is her first collection of poems on the beautiful complexities of identity, teaching, immigration, family, romance, and spirituality. Robin, 24, immigrated to the U.S. from Mumbai when she was 5 years old. She currently teaches and learns from 19 second-graders using mindful and healing techniques (along with common core, of course).
How and when did you start writing poetry?
Writing has been a part of my self-expression since I learned English. I used to write stories at 6 and 7 years old and make them into little books. As I got older, those stories turned into poetry as it was a quicker way to convey messages and lessons. I actually started writing poems for myself. It was easier for me to write in that format than to journal. I would send them to a few friends that knew what I was going through or that I thought would appreciate them. It was never specifically written for the world to read.
What inspired this book and the title?
It wasn't that I wrote this book but more so that I already had a collection of hundreds of poems and wanted one entity to hold it all. I wanted my friends to hold them in their hands without scrolling endlessly through my blog. This past summer my friend Ty read some of them and said, "Levina, have you considered publishing these?" and the seed was planted.
Word Constellations represents the way we string different words together to create unique dances between them. The words already existed, I just strung them together just as the stars exist and we connect them to tell stories. It is truly beautiful how many combinations of words we can create to convey emotion and truth to others.
How did you find the time during your first and second year of teaching?
To be honest, poetry was my therapy during teaching because it is easy to write and so quick. I don't spend much time on my actual poems because they feel as if they flow through me. However, after I decided to write the actual book, I spent hours and hours daily to make it a reality. I spent about 60 hours just during Thanksgiving break making it happen and many many countless nights. You know you want something badly when you don't sleep or eat while you work on it (not recommended).
How did you go about finding a publisher and being sold on Amazon?
Amazon is wonderful in that they allow people to self publish their books! They are so user-friendly and have such great support with the whole process. It's called CreateSpace. Let me know if you are interested in doing the same and I am so willing to help!
Do you have a favorite poem in the book?
So far as people have been reading, they all show me different poems that hit them. Then I relive the moment that I wrote it, so my favorites change a lot. Disclaimer: Not all my poems are about teaching but here's one I have shared before:
i teach them to be human
& in the same space
they teach me to be
My other favorite is the one that the book sequence was based on which you will understand when you read it!
What advice do you have for any aspiring writers out there of any age?
Write your truth, always. The raw version.