Richard Blanco nominated the poet Rachel McKibbens:
Who the hell’s that rowdy woman behind me? She just photo-bombed me! Surely she’s not one of “us” poets, I thought to myself seated with about a dozen other poets waiting to take the stage and read to a packed house of about 2000 people at the Dodge Poetry Festival. She couldn’t be one of us—I could hear her cussing and laughing a most infectious laugh; she was loud and funny, confident and engaging. She wasn’t an aloof, pretentiously shy, self-conscious, neurotic mess of a poet, like most of us (myself included). But—much to my surprise—she was one of us: the MC called her name “Rachel McKibbens” and she graciously stepped up to the stage, immediately owning it with her goddess-like presence; she took a breath, and began: “go with the one…whose love lifts its head to you despite its broken neck…” Her words portioning time and arresting space like an aria exhaled by her otherworldly voice that would change my life forever and make me rethink everything I thought poetry and the life of a poet should be. By the time she finished reading—pardon the cliché, but even for a poet there’s no other way to say this: tears were flowing down my face. At that moment, I knew I needed to know Rachel—and know her for the rest of my life. Luckily, that’s exactly what happened. After her reading we instantly became soul-friends over Martinis and Buffalo wings at the hotel bar.
Throughout the years since, our journeys have intersected marvellously. Rachel is my teacher: she’s taught me that poetry is more than a spit of clever words on a page, but rather, a living experience, born out of our bodies, not just your minds. Rachel is my sister: she never misses a beat, lovingly teasing me about my hair, my nerdy blazers, my way-too-neat three-ring binder of poems; she makes me laugh at and love and all my idiosyncrasies. Rachel is my preacher: she’s instilled in me a call to action, believing that poets ought to be at the front lines of social justice issues; she’s made me stop navel-gazing, and gaze instead at the inscrutable stars. Rachel is my mother: she takes care of me with just the right word and just the right time, whether in a poem or in a text; and she’s an incredible mother to her own five children whom she loves as uniquely and authentically as her poetry. She’s is the one whose love lifts its head to me despite its broken neck. And so, I was sort of right, Rachel is not a poet—she’s more than a poet: she’s a force, an element, a source, a shadow, an attraction. She is pure starlight—see and read for yourself.
Work by Rachel McKibbens: