Desiree Mckenzie

Desiree Mckenzie's picture

Hailing from the burbs of Brampton, Des has touched many stages throughout the city sharing her truth. As a director to the Toronto BAM! Youth Slam organization and the 2019 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word National Champion with Up From the Roots, she is a keen arts educator and poet looking for growth by way of the stage. She has represented Toronto Poetry Slam at the 2020 Women of the World Poetry Slam in Dallas, Texas where she placed in the top 40 of 100 poets and was ranked among the top three poets in Canada at the 2020 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam. Her poetry has also been featured as part of CBC’s Poetic License series. Performing proves time and time again to be her therapy as she turns the stories of complex relationships, growing up and struggles with self-love as a Black and Indo-Caribbean woman into tales of perseverance.

Did you read poetry when you were in high school? Is there a particular poem that you loved when you were a teenager?: 

Yes! I especially watched alot of slam poetry (Def Jam, Button Poetry) on YouTube. My most favourite poem (and a huge reason why I began writing in the first place) is Sarah Kay's “If I should have a daughter” or alternatively titled “B.” This poem honestly changed my life and showed me how poetry can be used to explore ideas that feel bigger than us, and bring them down to earth. This was followed by the discovery of Phil Kaye, Shane Koyczan, Stacey-Ann Chin, and poets in the Toronto community when I began going to slams featuring Britta B., David Delisca, and other poetry legends of the city. 

When did you first start writing poetry? And then when did you start thinking of yourself as a poet?: 

I began writing poetry in grade 6, when the boy I liked didn't like me back! I found it easy to communicate my feelings around this heartbreak through stanza rather than just regular conversation, so I would say that's when I felt like a poet. The moment in which I knew I was a poet was when I performed and was approached by people afterward, saying they felt me and felt a connection to what I had to say. This not only affirmed that I had a way with words, but I could communicate with people in ways I never thought I could and build relationships with people just from performance. That's what I felt poets I loved before I started did for me. 

What do you think a poet’s “job” is?: 

I think a poet's "job" is to break the stigma's around poetry (it has to rhyme, it has to be “deep,” etc.,) and simply let their love for the craft shine through. The goal should always be to just give students another way to express themselves, and show them how it can be done in so many diverse ways through poetry. It should be treated as an open door, that people can step through, any way they want! 

If you had to choose one poem to memorize from our anthology, which one would it be?: 

If I had to choose a poem to memorize from the Poetry In Voice anthology it would be "These Poems, She Said” by Robert Bringhurst. I love the form of how it's written, and the descriptive language used along with repetition. I think it's a beautiful analysis of love, and what makes love unconditional, true and real.