Sharing writing with the world is a lot like serving up words on a dinner plate. We can dice them, season them, and cook them however we like, but each person seated at the table has unique taste buds that interpret the flavors differently.
Having accidentally stumbled upon the work of poet Rachel McKibbens, I have spent the last several months in an on/off relationship with her. There are days I feel like her delicious words nourish my soul and (less often) others when I want to spit them out.
My experience with her work has been interesting as I came to know her poetry not by reading it, but by watching her read and perform it. Her spoken words impacted me deeply before I purchased two of her books: Pink Elephant and Into the Dark and Emptying Field.
In reading her work, I found some to be just a bit too spicy for my taste and finished feeling a bit unsatisfied, not having full understanding of their message. But it was shortly after when I realized as writers just how hard it is to portray with words what we feel deep in our being, deep within that space that calls us to share.
Not long after, I returned to her spoken performances where I was reminded of just how powerful her messages are and many of them brought me to tears again. Even if I did not have parallel experiences in my own life, she has such a way of projecting her own experiences as she reads and performs that you can't help but feel you have "been there." I can think of no greater compliment for a writer.
It does not matter which way she serves it up, sitting at her table is exciting as you never know what you're about to taste next. More often than not, her words are a party in your mouth and I am so grateful to have found her in a less traditional way - in a way that has allowed her poetry to become some of my favorite.
If I had to describe her work in one word, I would say honest. Her poetry drips with such honesty it can leave you both awestruck and appalled, yet always wanting more. And let's be honest, we need more honesty in this world as it is where the most real connections can happen.
Below are links to a few of my favorite readings of hers. The first, Central Park, Mother's Day, was my very first exposure to her and leaves me in tears every time I watch. The other two are equally as powerful and moving. I highly recommend you give her a shot!