We had the good fortune of connecting with Kelsey Bryan-Zwick and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kelsey, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
Every five minutes something can get done. I am very task oriented so with every project or commitment I break them up into a list of tasks. This way even if all I have is five minutes I can still get something done. These small chunks of time I usually dedicate to “busy work,” that needs to get done but does not need the same bandwidth as some of the more creative aspects, like design or writing drafts. This can also get me unstuck if other tasks feel too difficult to dive right into, it keeps the momentum going toward my overall goals.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Due to my health (I am disabled from a young age with scoliosis), I’ve never really been able to replicate a process as it is taught to me. I am always having to invent a method for myself, and this naturally makes my outcomes unique, which is actually what I was voted as in high school, “most unique,” out of my graduating class. As this is how I understand my body it reveals itself in both my poetry which often deals directly with the subject matter of disability as well as in my visual art which tends to be in bright colors depicting mostly my plant collection/garden or my pets as these are the things that bring me joy and relaxation.
I was fortunate to study poetry formally at UC Santa Cruz and learned bookbinding skills in addition to writing and editing. This gave me the skills to found BindYourOwnBooks, a micro-press for handmade books. Many friends have been kind enough to give me art lessons over the year, sharing supplies and techniques, which enabled me to start making cards and prints. I wouldn’t say it was always easy, but you know you are learning something new when you risk enough to fail and then gather your will to try again. And for sure I am on this planet to learn everything I can. That is just my personal belief.
Due to my health, there have been whole years of my life where I can only manage to take down a few notes for poem ideas and dream about what I want to do when I can, and it is these little scraps that kept me going. I want people to know that I love doing this and I am going to keep doing what I can to keep this joy in my life.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I live in Long Beach by the port, which is a totally fascinating thing. Driving over the two bridges to San Pedro still gives me chills as a local. In San Pedro I love visiting the Korean Friendship bell, it is gorgeous and the view of the ocean magnificent. I like to take the typewriter there and just sit and write poems, maybe bring some picnic foods to enjoy the outdoors. Then there is the farmer’s market at Bixby park where they have delicious produce and my favorite Greek dips like tzatziki and hummus. I would have to visit Page Against the Machine to check out some progressive literature and the Museum of Latin American Art, which is my favorite art museum of all time. My favorite place to get coffee and bagels is Viento y Agua which is just starting to be able to open back up again (rumor has it the piano has a beautiful new paint job). If there are still to-go-drinks, it is fun to walk down Retro Row of fourth street and shop for vintage styles. I love El Dorado park, both the nature center there and the duck pond are two of my favorite spots. If I can I like the drive down Ocean street for the Zen all the way to the art district. Most of the open mic shows I go to are still virtual so I might pick up some Cocorenos for dinner and make a night of poetry. And then there is always a day for LA where my go to spots are the public library, The last Bookstore which has so many rooms to explore, and a museum like LACMA or MOCA.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There have been so many kind, supporting mentors and friends along my journey, it is wonderful to think about and hard to narrow down. As a poet the negativity is real. I was listening to an interview by The Los Angeles Poet Society with Conny Williams( a spectacular poet) and he said, “everyday you wake up the universe is open to you,” and it is wisdom like this that has been passed and shared in the poetry community that keeps me coming back. More recently I’ve teamed up with Jessica Wilson who founded LAPS as well as with Danielle Mitchell of The Poetry Lab to learn new skills and bring more of our visions into reality. These two have really grounded me in powerful ways. John Brantingham has also opened up new ideas for me with his workshop series Culturama.
Instagram: @theexquisitepoet @bindyourownbooks
The first two photos were taken by Robert Jay and edited in Canva by me. The third photo was taken by poet Ellen Webre. All subsequent photos are my own.