Photo by Paul Neevel

Carter McKenzie

Poet and activist

“I loved the mountains,” says Carter McKenzie, who spent her childhood in Colorado Springs. She studied English literature at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, on her way to a master’s from the University of Virginia, and she worked on American history projects in the Library of Congress. “I was writing poetry and short stories on my own,” says McKenzie, who got married and followed her husband’s theater production career from New York City to Berkeley. “Poetry has been my calling ever since.” Daughter Ryan was born in California in 1992, and daughter Eavan arrived in 1996, after the family had moved to rural Dexter, Oregon. “I’m still living in the same house,” she notes, though her marriage ended in 2000. She first taught poetry to kids as a volunteer at her daughters’ elementary school, but since 2004, when her chapbook Naming Departure was published by Traprock Books, she has made a career of school residencies, summer camps, and workshops for all ages.

“Poetry offers an opportunity to engage in language and engage with the world in unexpected ways,” she says. “It’s a subversive art that works against cliché.” Following the Charleston church shootings by Dylann Roof in 2015, McKenzie joined the new local chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, a mostly-white group opposing racism and white privilege. As convener of its immigrant rights subcommittee, she has reassembled and expanded the photography exhibit, We are Neighbors, portraits of immigrants, first presented by Community Alliance of Lane County in 1996. See it at the Springfield Museum, 590 Main Street, during the Second Friday Art Walk on May 12 and through the month of June.

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