I feel so lucky to have crossed paths with him.
I had the privilege of taking a writing workshop with Randall Kenan when I was 19. He taught our class of pompous undergrads by offering genuine observations and questions about our work and the works of the writers we studied. He was never condescending. He was a gate-opener and a room-sharer. He used an actual pocket handkerchief, which he kept in his actual breast pocket, to wipe his brow. At this point in my life I have been a part of many workshops and his is one of only two in which I vividly remember my ideas of writing and of story being cracked open and changed.
On the first day of my workshop with him he asked us all to go up to the chalkboard in turn and draw a horse. We all tried (unsubtly) to be most creative, or most clever, or most detailled, anticipating the profound lesson about art that the exercise was surely leading up to. After we’d finished he walked back to the front of the room and started to lecture. “What were the drawings about?” someone asked. “Oh,” he said, “I just wanted to see your horses.”
*! ? minds blown*