Jessica Kuennen was never much of a writer. Though she enjoyed the poetry section of English class in secondary school, she hadn’t enjoyed writing to any further extent.
But two years ago, that all changed when Kuennen, a Minnetonka native, travelled on a journey of self-discovery, and published her poetry book, If I Ever Loved You, I’ll Always Love You.
Kuennen, a former special education teacher, has always been passionate about education and youth—and inspired her students to live every day to its fullest extent. "I always told my students that there’s no limits on the world out there,” she says. “So, I wanted to see if I could walk the talk.”
She started setting daily small intentions and goals, such as changing her diet and committing to a year of being makeup- and nail polish-free—and realized that there are much greater things to do beyond the materialistic things in life.
“I said, ‘How do I value myself and what does that look like?’” Kuennen says. “I said out loud, ‘I want to write a book.’ So, I continued to choose myself and what I love doing over and over again.”
If I Ever Loved You, I’ll Always Love You allowed Kuennen to reflect upon her life, including growth, love and loss—three major components of the poetry compilation. And since she completed the book entirely herself, from writing and publishing to getting it on store shelves, she’s been able to create connections in the Minnetonka community and with her readers.
“[Readers] have been men, children and women … The youngest girl who’s read my book is 7, and the oldest reader is 97,” she explains. “It’s shown me the larger picture: We’re all the same, and we want the same thing. We all have these dreams.”
The poems range from simple, whimsical poems to longer, heavier poems; about half of the poems rhyme, while the other half are free reflections. Each chapter follows a phase of the moon and can stand alone without being read in order. Kuennen describes the novel as “sweet and salty expressions" of her soul.
Kuennen says the most prominent poem, “My Barefoot Mission,” led to the realization of her mission to offer a space of healing, and a space for all people to be seen and heard. She says, “I want to remind people that they are 100 percent loved, and wherever they are on their path or in life, that they truly have the power to shape their life … and be as beautiful as they want to be, and as beautiful as they are in my eyes.”
If I Ever Loved You, I’ll Always Love You is available to purchase locally at SuNu Wellness, Excelsior Bay Books, Jewelweed and Tribeca Salon. First and limited editions are available at Kuennen’s website.