“I am most passionate about words—what they can do, what you can push them to do, what they can push you to do, as a writer. With my words, my poetry, I hope to connect with others, to help open someone, to make someone I have never even met feel seen in some way. I recently went to a poetry reading for Ilya Kaminsky who told all of us in the audience: ‘A poet speaks privately to many people at once.’ That kind of intimacy with others is what I hope for when writing.”
When I first met Mackenzie Kean, Zi, it was a humid, summer day. Strawberry blonde curls floated in front of her gentle eyes- a hummingbird hovering effortlessly. She is delicate and well-spoken. I felt accepted in her presence, welcomed to be the better side of myself. Reading her words ripped open a part of me. Heavenly words that restored peace in my mind and continue to every time I go back. I’d keep them in a book in my pocket if I could. She’s another reminder of why I love language so dearly. And it’s really beautiful to share that kind of devotion with someone who feels the same about this craft.
Although Zi has gotten familiar with the fine arts- oil and acrylic on canvas and charcoal on paper- she has a sacred love for poetry and works on short fiction. “Poetry has and always will be what truly opens me as a writer and as a human being.” Growing up in a more spacious part of New Jersey, she has a close relationship with the world around her and her people. The cherished relationships she has with her family are reflected in much of her writing.
I was thrilled when I discovered she wrote too. It’s a gift to be able to get to know someone through writing and also be able to simply relate. “I would like to find the time one day to figure out how to call myself a poet (or even just a writer) and truly believe it. I believe in my writing, in my poetry, but somehow I feel separate from all of it.” It’s difficult to get to the point of feeling accomplished. And we must find some sort of confidence in order to put it on display. There are times we completely reject our work and it never sees the light of day. Or we refuse to call ourselves writers because we’re not good at it. Ha. But even if we aren’t, it doesn’t matter. It always comes back to what we came here to do- our purpose, what we find joy in.
You never know when you’ll be hit with something precious. In Big Magic (which is a fantastic read for creative people), Elizabeth Gilbert talks about how there was a writer who described her ideas coming to her out of the blue and then having to “run like hell” to the house to write it down before the thought completely left her. Other times, it will be something that sticks to your mind and won’t leave. A pressing image or word- “Joan Didion calls this a “shimmer”, which I love.”
All you can do to encourage writing is to allow for the space for thoughts to enter as they please. After something shows up and it’s jotted down- kind of like a big vent on paper- comes the rewording, rearranging, and deciding if a letter or space needs to be kept. “That’s when the process is its most agonizing, thrilling, and calming. But really, I think, so much of the writing process is just thinking, the silence before.”
As creators, we bare our sensitive sides to the world. We expose our art to the seasons to be torn and weathered as they may- held in the face of critique. We even sometimes resent our own work. “There is sometimes a tension between the art and the artist: our art always allows us to be vulnerable, but we do not always allow our art to be. Meaning that art gives us a space for expression, reflection, and discovery, but oftentimes there is a struggle in sharing this art and allowing it to leave us hanging wide open in front of everything and everyone around us.” While this is painful, it is also healing and allows us to close wounds, find beauty in all that we’ve seen and been through, and to warp to the people we are at the current moment.