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Last Modified: February 6, 2023
Illustration of a crow sitting on a book, with the following text to the left, "Crow Reads Podcast"
CROW READS with Rayanne Haines
Crow Reads is a podcast series by Rayanne Haines, in which she interviews intersectional women, LGBTQ+, and non-binary authors, publishers, editors, agents, and booksellers from Alberta. In this episode, Rayanne speaks with poet Skylar Kay, whose poetry explores how surrounding environments reflect and mirror human experiences, especially her experiences as a queer transgender woman.

Skylar Kay author image

Skylar has an interest in Japanese literature, specifically Haiku, and has been pursuing this interest in her poetry since 2016. In Transcribing Moonlight, Skylar says she wrote the book she wanted in the world. She recalls seeing a poem in a Haiku collection called Love Haiku that specifically referenced sex change. That representation enabled her to consider writing an entire collection. By using Haibun to shape the collection, Skylar turned the traditional form, with set rules around even the kinds of words a person can use, on its head to explore her transition. While struggling through a difficult time with her mental health, she says she found it a relief to discover the collection and that she owes much to that book and to the form of Haiku. In choosing the form of Haibun for her collection, however, she felt she had the freedom to express more than within the limiting structure of Haiku.

Skylar notes that when she is drafting, she’ll free-write until the idea of what she wants to say solidifies. Then she returns to form and massages the piece to fit Haibun. Though titles are not used in Haibun and Haiku, there is a narrative scope to the collection that moves through lines like “for twenty-three years I dreamed in third person” (pg. 33) and “the first time I wore my new life” (pg. 20). This narrative asks the reader to sit quietly and listen deeply.

In this writing of the lunar cycles, Skylar attempts to use the traditional feminine figure of the moon, tweaking it to reclaim the moon for trans women. She also uses the Zodiac signs—six feminine and one masculine. Each time she references the Zodiac signs and moon together she does so using a feminine sign. This is a collection that surprises and shifts, much like her own experiences. The attention to craft and experimentation within form is something that shouldn’t be understated or overlooked.

For Skylar, the book wasn’t just writing about self, but also about family and friends’ experiences as well. She suggests that at the end of the day you must know if you are writing the book for yourself or for the readers. When considering how much we’re sharing, she laughed about coming to terms with the writing and sharing of private things that are no longer private. She also notes that in some cases certain poems, specifically the one on page 20 that looks at motherhood, took up to six years to write. Indeed, the line “maybe motherhood is a prerequisite for shapeshifting” left this writer contemplating long after reading it. Like that Haiku collection that showed her what was possible, Skylar hopes Transcribing Moonlight can help people going through their own transition, regardless of what stage they are in or even if they choose not to complete the transition.

This is a collection that sits apart, that upends tradition while also celebrating form as Skylar invites readers into her own experience with transitioning. It’s a debut collection from an author who inherently understands the value of every word and every movement. The fluid nature of the narrative flows through the Haibun form and makes for a masterful collection that should be required reading.

You can listen to the full episode here:

Rayanne Haines (she/her) is an educator and hybrid author. She is the 2022 Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries, the V.P. of the League of Poets and a best-selling author of three poetry collections—The Stories in My Skin (2013), Stained with the Colours of Sunday Morning (Inanna, 2017), and Tell the Birds Your Body Is Not a Gun (Frontenac, 2021). Her poetry and prose have been shortlisted for the John Whyte Memorial Essay Alberta Literary Award, The Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry, and the National ReLit Award for Poetry. Tell the Birds Your Body Is Not a Gun won the 2022 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry.

Tell the Birds Your Body is Not a Gun

Rayanne Haines (CA)

Published: Apr 15, 2021 by Frontenac House Ltd.
ISBN: 9781989466216

Skylar Kay is an Albertan poet currently living in Windsor, ON. Her poetry explores how surrounding environments reflect and mirror human experiences, especially her experiences as a queer transgender woman. Her debut collection, Transcribing Moonlight, was released by Frontenac House in April 2022.

Transcribing Moonlight

Skylar Kay (CA)

Published: by Frontenac House Ltd.
ISBN: 9781989466346