After Heriot’s Blog

Next on the blog we have Kate Millar.

Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.

Kate Millar, Class of 2018

What is your current role?

Poet, writer, music journalist, and research assistant.

In typical writerly fashion, I don’t make my living from writing alone. I work a few different jobs to keep myself going while working on my debut poetry collection. Primarily, I conduct research for two professors of poetry and creative writing at a university in New York City. My role has included interviewing poets on their craft (such as former poet laureate Tracy K. Smith, Major Jackson, and Rachel Eliza Griffiths), editing poetry manuscripts, gathering and collating research for academic papers and monographs on hybrid and decolonial poetics.

What was your journey to get there?

After my undergraduate degree in English at The University of St Andrews, I moved to New York City to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing. I got my research assistant role simply by engaging fully in my professor’s classes and expressing interest in their areas of research.

My journey into music journalism was more accidental and is one of my favourite surprises to come from my time in New York City. Making the most of what the city has to offer, for me, meant going to as many music gigs as possible. Not only does New York host bigger artists on their US/worldwide tours, it is a hub for burgeoning indie musicians. Taking a leaf out of my twin brother’s book, I started hanging out after the shows to chat with the musicians themselves, to learn about their lives, their creative processes, and the things that inspired them. Concurrently, my MFA program placed an emphasis on integrating us into the writing community in the city, encouraging us to send pitches to various publications on all kinds of topics. This led to my first music interview (with London-based band, Flyte, who I met in Brooklyn on their US tour) being published in BOMB magazine, one of the city’s leading arts & culture publications. Through this experience, I realised that one of my favourite joys in life was to connect with people, asking them questions about their creative work and passions, as well as writing about the ways that music moves me. Since then, I have written music reviews and artist interviews for Atwood Magazine.

My journey to poetry/writing can’t really be charted onto any professional trajectory. It’s really a story of increased devotion to the craft. By doing an MFA in Creative Writing, I was able to invest in  my growth as a writer, learning how to sustainably integrate it into my life long-term, making it a core practice in my life despite not being a primary source of income.

What are your achievements?

Instead of a singular “achievement,” I am most proud of the way that I have grown in bravery. From introducing myself to musicians, to putting myself forward for fellowships and publications, to becoming more experimental and driven in my poetic work (I have started making poem-films, ceramic poems, and want to sew a series of poems onto a quilt next!). To be a poet takes a big leap of faith – for one thing, barely anyone reads it! – and I am so proud to be investing in something that I feel deeply matters. Poetry operates more in a gift economy than a market one, so even though it occupies a marginal space in capitalistic society, it tends to people’s souls, draws them from the surface of their lives to the depths, which I feel is infinitely more rewarding.

What are your favourite memories of Heriot’s?

Other than sitting in the sunshine eating lunch and chatting with my friends while Edinburgh Castle hovers over the playground, honestly, my favourite part of Heriot’s was how enjoyable learning was. Our curiosities and interests were nourished by the teachers, we were allowed to ask questions and have tangential discussions. I have particularly happy memories of the rogue and fascinating conversations that our Advanced Higher History class used to have.

As a poet, I really believe in the virtue of attention – taking a moment to memorialise the colours of Scald Law at sunset or the wisdom of a friend, to be aware of the deeper currents at play in life and society (whether positive or negative). To be attentive to someone or something is the “purest and rarest form of generosity,” and school is a central space for growing that skill, French philosopher Simone Weil writes. I felt that in Heriot’s – there was an overarching culture of critical thinking towards all that we studied, as well as a culture of kindness and attentiveness to our peers.

Any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?

Follow your curiosity. You don’t have to have a ten-year plan or career trajectory charted out aged 18. Take it one step at a time – this will allow you to be more receptive to opportunities in front of you, ones that you may miss if your head is always occupied five-steps-ahead.