We had the good fortune of connecting with Mario Reyes and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Mario, we’d love to hear about a book that’s had an impact on you.
As a father with young children, I read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This book helped me realize that my feeling of helplessness regarding raising a Black son wasn’t unique to me. Race issues have plagued this country from its inception and my inability to protect my son from all the potential threats in this world left me helpless. However, in reading this book, I felt inspired to face the systemic bias that would be our biggest obstacle. A book that resonates with a poet is a dangerous thing. I took that muse and wrote a poem entitled – “A Son with No Father is a Book with No Author,” which ultimately grew from a prose to a book on its own.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The journey of any artist is that of experience and self-reflection. As a teenager, I wrote raps that told stories of what I witnessed in the streets of The Bronx. As I grew older I stopped trying to ride the beats and instead just marched to the beat of my own drum. I found the internal rhythm and cadences from generations before me littered in my wordplay. However, me starting my journey as a writer at 15, I didn’t start to actively care to make a name for myself as a poet and author until I was 35. Prior to that, most of my art was meant for me and those I loved. Once I moved to Atlanta, I started to notice that I wasn’t just writing journal entries anymore.  I was writing self-help poems. By matching lessons with experiences, I noticed that my poems held value. Value from the wisdom I accumulated over years of trial and error, hardship and achievement, love and loss. It all gets parsed through poetry and allows me to track my growth. I have a lyric that explicitly states, “I’m a poet, therefore don’t fuck with me, because I don’t keep shit private.” Truth is, my biggest strength comes from being vulnerable but not seen. I allow the world insight to my life to extract the result, but very rarely do they ever understand the full equation. That’s the difference. My storytelling is littered with jewels (precious takeaways or life’s CliffsNotes). It’s not low hanging fruit. It may take you several listens to recognize how the schemes are all tied in, but when the lesson is realized it is extracted from the metaphor much like extracting jewels from ore.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Ahhhhhh, I remember going out! Pre-COVID I would start on the Lord’s day! Sunday evening we’d be at Apache Cafe catching live performances. Monday evening I’d hit Fellaship for a cigar and some lamb chops. At some point, they’ll certainly be a private event. Throughout the week, we’d get some work done at The Gathering Spot along with some good happy hour laughs. On Friday we would start by going to Zucot Art Gallery for one of their wine and art events. That evening we would post up in Parlor and allow the best bartenders to do what they do while relaxing with some music. Saturday morning we’ll hit Homegrown for brunch and then hop to Little 5 Points for some thrift shopping and energy. Maybe swing by Auburn District to eat at BQE and party with the younger crowd. Late night, I’m hitting R. Thomas and my fire pit!

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?
Being that this interview is conducted on the heels of my 40th birthday I am extra reflective in how I arrived here. That being said, my first shoutout is to my parents for allowing me to preserve my innocence and childhood in The Bronx (no easy task). Secondly is my late sister, Tiana Reyes, who was the best example of leadership I’ve ever met. Then of course the mob of aunts, uncles and cousins that make life joyful and competitive. The Q4, Co-Op City – turned soft skin into hard leather. That’s my genesis. Getting my first book to print independently with this caliber of contributions and quality is humbling. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, that’s only because their cover wasn’t designed by Mr. Charly Palmer, high end artist and my OG. Shoutout to John Bonilla, Tiffany Nicholson, and Jocylyn Benson for taking the care in this project as if it was their own – ensuring the design, edits, and marketing was present. Milk N Sizz whom created a musical masterpiece in the Score that is unmatched in any genre. Angela Miles for her commitment and contribution to the workbook. Shoutout to The Gathering Spot for providing me a home and a network to birth this labor of love. Lastly, thank you everyone that has poured into me and this project over the past five years. It’s been an arduous journey that has culminated into a healing workshop for fathers and sons to have healthy dialogue all under the #ASWNF banner.

Website: www.papipicassopoetry.com
Instagram: @iampapipicasso
Twitter: @papipicassopoet
Facebook: Papi Picasso Poetry
Youtube: Papi Picasso

Image Credits
Kamau Brothers Mr. Watson Mia photography

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