Department Profile: Alum Mackenzie Kozak ’13

Poet Mackenzie Kozak

Hometown: Appleton, Wisconsin (current home is Asheville, NC)

Major/Minor: BA English with a minor in Studio Art

Current Employment: Nonprofit assistant by day & poet by night

What role has the English major played in your career path?

Majoring in English, particularly at Wake Forest, allowed me the rare freedom to devote time and attention to language and literature. One of the first courses I took was Professor Hans’s Poetry and Philosophy, which was a fascinating introduction to the work of Heidegger and Ammons and which made me feel very lucky—you mean my homework for the week is to read poetry and essays on being? Professors Biespiel, Holdridge, O’Callaghan, and Whitehead were others whose classes made an incredible impact on my growth as a writer. 

I went right into a master’s program in creative writing following undergrad, and this was a two-year degree where I was essentially writing poetry full-time. Since completing my MFA, I’ve been balancing the 9-5 grind with writing in my spare time. I think “career path” is kind of a complicated term for someone whose passion isn’t necessarily going to make a living, but I wouldn’t change anything about the focus of my education. The world is going to tell you poetry isn’t important or valuable, so it was essential for me to have my undergraduate years at Wake with brilliant professors who championed literature. Now that I’m outside of academia, I have to push for my work to be valued and I have to put myself out there in terms of submitting to literary magazines and manuscript contests. I think my perseverance and dedication is largely due to what I learned in school. There have been moments recently where I find myself gaining traction as a poet and it makes me grateful for that specific time in my life when writing was all I was supposed to be doing, because it shaped the way I prioritize my time today. I also met my husband in a poetry class at Wake, so majoring in English has played multiple, beautiful roles in the rest of my life. 

You can find some of Mackenzie Kozak’s poetry online at MackenzieKozak.com/

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