Sarah Mckinstry-Brown: Cradling Monsoons

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By Andrew Dinsmoor, Contributor

Sarah Mckinstry-Brown is a poet, mother and wife.  She is one woman balancing a monsoon of tasks. Mckinstry-Brown explained that life’s gifts and blessings can become cumbersome, such is the nature of life.  This is the inspiration behind her new full-length collection of poetry, “Cradling Monsoons.”

“I want my reader to feel as if we’re sharing the same space and it’s late at night (because that’s when we all can’t help but be more honest with each other),” Mckinstry-Brown said of her poetry. 

UNO professor and poet Miles Waggener once said, “If a poem is creating a feeling inside of its reader, it’s doing its job.”  This is true for all art, and this is what Mckinstry-Brown’s poetry achieves. 

“Cradling Monsoons” was conceived when Brown decided to overcome the fear that clenched America just after September 11, 2001. 

After 9/11, she said, she decided she wouldn’t fold to the fear gripping America.  

Selling everything she owned apart from one suitcase full of belongings, Mckinstry-Brown began a cross-country tour to immerse herself in writing and performing. 

Mckinstry-Brown’s poetry has been published in literary magazines such as The Cimarron Review and Chicago Quarterly. She’s also been published in numerous slam anthologies and even has a poem featured in West Virginia’s Standardized Test for 10th graders.  This wide variety of publications demonstrates the way Mckinstry-Brown’s poems can be appreciated by people from all walks of life.

However, it was during her time as a graduate student in UNO’s Writers’ Workshop that inspired her to weave together “Cradling Monsoons.”

“I respected and admired Bill so much, and he had such faith in me and my work—I couldn’t bear to give the poems or him anything less than 110 percent,” she said.

Bill taught Mckinstry-Brown that writing a manuscript is a dirty business, and it’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. 

After completing the MFA program, Mckinstry-Brown submitted the collection to Blue Light Press’ full-length manuscript contest. It won.

Brown recently won the Academy of American Poets Prize, and she is currently an adjunct faculty at UNO, teaching creative writing. 

But she said she’s always been a reluctant poet.

“Is it wise to spend months, years, on a single poem…Shouldn’t I go outside and do something meaningful, like build a bridge or dig a ditch?”  These days, Mckinstry-Brown said, she finds real meaning as a mother and in her work as a teacher.

When asked about her current works in progress, Brown said, “Right now, all of my energy is going into getting this book out into the world.” 

The Chiapas poet Jaime Sabinas once said, “Live, then write.  In that order.” Right now, Mckinstry-Brown said she’s focusing on the living part.

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