By Mackenzie August-McClure
Last semester I got the amazing opportunity to create my own zine that showcased a collection of five self-composed poems. My fellow members of Willamette’s literary club “The Mill” helped me receive funding for this project and launch it into existence. The zine entitled “On Some Subconscious Level” includes several pieces revolving around my ongoing journey with mental health; told through the most liberating and captivating medium at my disposal: words. This was an extremely personal topic for me, and I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to showcase, not only my work, but the landscape of my own thoughts, on a campus filled with people who can understand and relate to this ever-pressing topic at hand.
Since a very young age, I’ve always wanted to write. I remember being six years old, and scribbling absolute nonsense on countless pieces of paper, pretending that I was filling the pages with tales of fantastic adventures or sophisticated academic opinions that I was too young to actually have. When I got into high school, writing became a coping mechanism to help deal with depression and anxiety. At the time, everything that I’d written seemed to be too exposing to reveal to the public, so at first, I never had the intention of showing my work to anyone. It wasn’t until the last semester of high school that I realized that the best pieces of art are vulnerable and sometimes uncomfortable. Therefore, I decided that when I got to college, I would attempt to get something of my own published.
As a member of “The Mill” I was given an opportunity to create my own zine with complete creative freedom and voice. I automatically knew that I wanted to create a small collection of the poetry that I had been writing during and before my first semester at Willamette. However, I hoped that the project could be more than just a few poems, so I proposed to a spectacularly talented friend of mine, Bee Heumann, to create accompanying visual art that would illustrate her perspective on the poems and her feelings towards the subject matter as well.
The majority of what I had been writing last semester was inspired by a need to understand the internal struggles of dealing with mental health issues, a topic that many people can relate to and empathize with. That said, the nature of the poems were extremely personal, and I hadn’t shared the experiences that prompted them with many other people. So, the prospect of all of Willamette seeing them was fairly daunting to say the least. Many times, I contemplated writing about something entirely different due to the possibility that these poems, that detail the inner workings of my brain, might be too exposing. But as they say, “write what you know,” and this was an area that I was all too familiar with. Plus, the fact that I’d come to know others on this campus who were open and comfortable with the topic of mental health provided a source of comfort.
Luckily, I was able to work with a handful of talented people who helped edit and guide the writing process for these poems. Michael Chasar, my creative writing professor from last semester, provided guidance on the structural elements for some of the poems and granted me with a lot of invaluable knowledge about how to create refined and meaningful poetry. Abigail Lanhert (’18) and Anna Neshyba (’18), two phenomenal artists and influential members of “The Mill,” aided in the editing process of the poems and were responsible for the formatting, production and distribution of the zine itself. I was also extremely lucky to work with Heumann, who created the spectacular images for the Zine.
I’m beyond fortunate to have been able to work on a project of this nature within my first year in college. It helped solidify my goals of producing more literary art in the future. My main goal for this project specifically was to put something out into the world that others could relate to and feel represented by in terms of mental health — myself included.