Mitzy Sky is an award-winning poet who writes to transmute the pain to love. She’s consciously unlearning messages that hindered her from living wholeheartedly. Her focus is on letting go of internalized oppression to move forward from shame to presence, beyond labels.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
1. Where were you born/grew up? Where is your home now?
I was born at UC Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. My dad drove the JOS bus, so I spent some time in Kingston. When my mom migrated to the United States, I went to live in Airy Castle, St. Thomas, with my dad’s family. When he came to America, I lived with my mom’s family in Bog Walk, St. Catherine, where I attended Tullah School until I came to America and lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bog Walk is the last and only place I remember consciously living before coming to America at eight. I didn’t have electricity or a television in the four-room board house my uncle built that included a dirt floor kitchen, two bedrooms, a large room with a table, and a kerosene oil lamp that sat on top of it except when we used it on the veranda. We also used a vintage sugar chest (called a what-not) to store food such as condensed milk, Milo, rice, flour, dry peas, and salted cod fish. My favorite place was outdoors, catching butterflies, rolling down hills, laying on the ground looking up at the sky, and polishing the veranda on Saturday mornings where we would later in the night tell duppy (ghost) stories before washing our feet and going to bed.
Where is your home now?
My home now is in Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA. It has some of the wealthiest towns in America as well as some of the poorest ones. The strength of the Jamaican people is evident. The Jamaican culture is rich. You could find many Caribbean West Indian organizations supporting the people in their towns and back home. One of the many perks is the jerk festivals that happen in Bridgeport, Danbury, Waterbury, and the capital city of Hartford. Living close to New York City is a bonus because it is also rich in Jamaican culture.
2. When did you start writing?
When I look back, I can see my first moment of being a writer was in sixth grade. I didn’t complete my reading assignments for the entire school year, which, if I could recall, was a total of fifteen books to be accompanied by fifteen book reports. It was writing the book reports or fail. I wrote the book reports from my imagination and made up the titles, the characters, the setting, and the summary for each story. The teacher accepted the book reports, and I passed the class. I don’t think I could get away with that in 2022 with the internet. As a teenager, I wrote rap lyrics to Reggae dance hall songs inspired by Sista Nancy, Yellow Man, Brigadier Jerry, Shinehead, and Michigan & Smiley, and deejayed at dances with my friends. I never really stopped writing, but I became more conscious of it during the nineties as I started dreaming of a better life for my children, and myself expressing the pain in poems was what I found helped the most. Some of the poems in my upcoming book I wrote back in 1996.
3. What is your motivation to write?
To transmute the pain to love. I’ve experienced adversities that I’ve found a way through. I know I am not the only one who experiences difficulties in our life that causes pain and suffering. I don’t just want to share the pain; I want to share the way through it and all the possibilities we have during this human experience on Earth.
4. Tell me about the books you have written?
I am both a writer and a filmmaker. I created a short documentary named I Am Not Your Mental Patient and working on a book with the same title. I often use the short documentary to share my journey during the Beyond the Story presentations or the compassionate activism training I develop and facilitate. My blogs have been published online at Inner-City News in New Haven, Connecticut, Mad in America, The Good Men Project, and Medium. My poem In This Moment is part of the We Are the Change-Makers – Poems Supporting Drop the Disorder. My academic paper, Why Beyond the Story, was published in the American Journal for Psychiatric Rehabilitation (AJPR) – IRCC Special Issue Boundary Crossings: Systems, Communities, and Expertise published by the University of Nebraska Press (UNP 2019), and my screenplay All Mind: The Influencers was published in the anthology Imagining Monsters (2019) published by Fairfield Scribes and Westport Library and edited by Alison McBain. It achieved Semi-Finalist status at the Bridgeport Film Festival 2022.
How many are there?
As I mentioned, three of my projects, In This Moment, Why Beyond the Story, and All Mind: The Influencers, were published in books. My first stand-alone poetry collection is in the editing process and will be released towards the end of the fall or winter of 2022.
What genre is it?
5. Which one of your characters is your favorite and why?
In All Mind: The Influencers, the character Mary Shelley is a writer, and she must figure out how to outwit all the men in her life who want to overpower her writing. In my work life, this has been a constant theme for me how not to take things personally and do the work that will support my overall well-being and contribute to society. There are roadblocks always to overcome. I’ve found that if you gain awareness, that is our true power, not just the titles and privileges in our role. All people deserve respect no matter the roles we are assigned. When that happens, we create together in such beautiful ways.
6. Tell us about your writing routine? What one thing do you need before you write?
When writing stories of overcoming, I could write anywhere, at any time. Often ideas come up, and I write them down using my cell phone and then transfer them to the computer. When writing an imaginary story, like when I wrote All Mind: The Influencers, I would sit on my favorite chair in the corner of my room and go in. I say, “go in,” meaning into my imagination, getting transported to watching everything happening. My task is to write it all down. I also have a great early Monday morning writing group created and facilitated by Gabi Coatsworth that I attend, which usually helps to kickstart the week.
What one thing do you need before you write?
A cup of coffee. The flavor varies over the years. It was once mint chocolate; most recently, I am enjoying a cup of cinnamon dulce with French vanilla while preparing to enter the imagination. But again, for the work writing about pain and transformation, I just need the keyboard and the screen.
7. What advice can you give to a new author or someone interested in becoming published?
Find writing groups with people who love writing just as you do. Offer support to each other and build connections. Writers are the most supportive people I’ve come to know. Be your authentic self, don’t meet up just to take. You give what you can, although others may know more than you. A cautionary note is to find different groups until you figure out what works best for you. There are so many -isms that they get in the way. When an authentic group accepts you, don’t worry about the -isms. Stay where works best for you. Also, find spaces to speak, such as writers’ mics. Familiarizing yourself with the arts community will allow you many opportunities to express yourself. Sometimes you may ask for feedback, but you don’t have to get feedback.
8. Which book are you working on right now?
My poetry book Top of the Zinc Roof: A looking down, observing, learning how to come down. It will be my first published book. I am also working on the book series Beyond the Story that Fairfield Scribes press will publish.
9. Who is your favorite author?
What is your favorite book?
The Invisible Man. It came to me when I had little awareness of the oppression caused by the social constructs of the world. I felt the despair of trying to live my best life in the world, but I didn’t have the words for what it was; instead, I blamed myself and allowed others to blame me. I lived behind the veil, dreaming of white picket fences and Mercedes Benz. I felt strong inside often, but I received a different message from society to stay shrunken and invisible. I memorized this paragraph when I read it: “I’m shaking off the old skin, and I’ll leave it here in the hole. I’m coming out, no less invisible without it, but coming out nevertheless. And I suppose it’s damn well time. Even hibernations can be overdone, come to think of it. Perhaps that’s my greatest social crime; I’ve overstayed my hibernation, since there’s a possibility that even an invisible man has a socially responsible role to play.” It told me I didn’t have to be anyone special; I just had to do the work.
10. Tell me something that no one knows about you?
Ram Dass’ teaching continues to be a light in my life each day. I don’t follow the personalities. What people share has to validate my own human experience. I look at the stories of how people overcome hardship to live fully present in the world. Ram Dass chased the American dream with wealth and got everything he wanted, yet he had limited peace. I chased the American dream from poverty, and it allowed a system of oppression to feed off me. He found peace within going to India and walking barefoot; that’s how I grew up in Jamaica.
The primary thing about my journey is finding peace again after experiencing severe adversities. Peace came when I started practicing forgiveness and then remembering my yard in Jamaica, with the board house and the zinc top roof, down the lane from the big road. I walked barefoot to school when the flip-flops broke because my grandma saved the patten leather shoes for church on Sundays. I chased and caught butterflies, lay on the ground on my back, and looked up at the sky. I ate mangoes off the mango tree, star apples, sugar cane, and guava. I was doing nothing. Connecting back to that stillness allows me to have some peace in the world amongst the chaos. My favorite phrase is “working to live,” I have found a great deal of awareness. I get many opportunities to work through adversities, and I’m not just living to work and make money. I also build confidence and connection to self, others, and nature.
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