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Meet Mario Reyes of Papi Picasso Poetry in West Midtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mario Reyes.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Originally, from Co-Op City in the Bronx, NY, I was raised in the ’80s surrounded by all elements of Hip Hop. There were always artistic influences available – dancing, visual, auditory, rhythmic, all these senses were on full tilt. As a child, you absorb and become the culture by default but I became more than a product of my environment, I became a vessel digesting every soulful means of expression available – I Manifest.

I wrote my first rap in 1996 after hearing T.O.N.Y. by Capone N’ Noreaga and used rap/poetry as a journal detailing events and the existential questions of a young man. Then, in 2003, while serving in my six years enlistment in the Air Force, I was deployed overseas in the Republic of Korea and won a five-week talent show. All disciplines of art performed and I humbly captured the crowd with two poems I wrote entitled “If Heaven Was a Mile Away”, and “I Had a Dream.” This venue became very popular on the peninsula and gained notoriety throughout United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) and was featured on Armed Forces Network globally. After that deployment, I was then stationed at the National Security Agency (NSA) in Maryland and started to test my talent in the historic U Street corridor of Washington DC. But as life will have it, the performance aspect of my poetry gave way to life’s responsibilities.

A moment of isolation is what truly put a blaze to my artistry. I moved to Atlanta and was isolated from my support system. With a few friends scattered in the ATL metro area all tending to the lives they created, I retreated to the friend I knew best – my poetry. Once here, I was able to navigate Atlanta’s poetry scene and find my voice and passion as a poet, author, and a man.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Smooth roads lead to dead ends. I’m a firm believer that success isn’t a destination, but a path which every step can enrich or devalue that perception. Over the course of the nine years from that talent show, I arrived back to the US and was introduced to marriage and divorce, birth and death, and other major challenges. I wrote through it all, but I kept all the work to myself and a few close friends.

The most difficult obstacle to overcome was my depression. In December of 2008, my older sister and best friend Tiana Nadine Reyes died of Myositis, a rare inflammatory muscle, an autoimmune disease, at the age of 30. I was 26 years old on the heels of becoming a first-time father. Regrets of taking time for granted and not telling her I was going to become a dad haunt me till this day. Soon after, I married my longtime girlfriend and mother of my son. We tried our best to succeed at marriage but it ultimately resulted in divorce five years later, not before we were blessed with another child, my precious daughter. While wrestling with my pending divorce, I was fired from the first job I had when I separated from the Air Force due to intrinsic bias in the contract I supported. Feelings of helplessness and unworthiness surfaced and gave way to substance abuse when I was wasn’t fathering my children or volunteering in the city of Baltimore. Self-care is dangerous, it creates a remote island where pain and grieve live, and you get to indulge in all its glory absent of any constructive support. The world around me only saw my success and achievements based on how I overcame. I went from being fired to starting my own IT consulting firm and landing two new contracts. I managed to establish a secure home for my children and agreed to a fair 50/50 joint custody arrangement. My new singleness seemed like freedom for a still young man. All of these outside perceptions couldn’t save me when I looked in the mirror at myself with the eyes of a cynic.

All of these life-changing events spiraled into a state of depression and still, I wrote. I wrote essays and poems. I wrote affirmations and letters. I wrote contracts and wills. And one Sunday during the height of my life’s storms, I said goodbye to my children so they could go to church with their mother. This was an amazing weekend which their unconditional love had filled my cup till it was overflowing. I started to clean up after their departure in a genuinely great mood, bopping to Bob Marley in my Sunday playlist and smelling the sheets to recall the purity of my baby’s scent. I saw a piece of paper in the corner and picked it up. “Ayo” it started as all of my poems do. I started to read this artifact of my feelings and halfway through I realized it was the most depressing poem I’ve ever read from myself. I remember writing it and the helplessness, anger and self-loathing that accompanied it. Fraught with the idea that this is the image and energy I was putting out into the world, I realized if I met that version of me in the streets, I wouldn’t want to be his friend. At that moment, I vowed to never write a self-pity poem again. I’d take off the cynical glasses and would always write with an optimistic arch. Stop venting and complaining, no use being messy. Instead, I’ll take these experiences I’ve survived and couple them with the lessons I’ve extracted.

Once I did that, I realized every decision would only help to add a description to the map of success I intend to leave my children. Hopefully, they’ll appreciate and respect every bump in the road.

Papi Picasso Poetry – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The brand Papi Picasso Poetry is “bespoke poetry meant to be spoken”

My primary service is providing customized poetry for any venue or venture. I collaborate with other companies as a brand ambassador to introduce the world to the image they wish to convey to the world. I study and collaborate to understand their company’s mission statement, the principles in which it was created and an audience they hope to reach. I then customize a poem and help to curate a marketing campaign to be distributed via any method of communication they prefer; ie – social media, email, live performances, etc…

I’m best known for my stage performances. No matter the size of the crowd we engage in intimate conversations revolving around the concept of the day. Most poets perform their most successful poems in hopes to gain the applause and fame. I believe my recognition comes from transparency and uncanny ability to be as vulnerable as needed to relate to my audience. My flagship poem entitled – “I am a Man” was birthed through my trials as a single father and having to combat all the negative imagery that accompanies that label. By communicating my virtues of manhood I was able to respectfully nod to traditions and step into the contemporary redefinition of manhood. Constantly sharing my experiences as a father and love for both of my children I’ve been able to create a core audience that can either relate or seeks support in navigating their own parenthood.

In my love for my children, I found my voice as a poet. This has created great interest in my forthcoming book entitled “A Son with No Father, Is a Book with No Author” set for release on Father’s Day 2019. Sharing how my son and I have navigated varying subjects that all people deal with, coupled with the poem that experience was a muse for. The format for this book will be groundbreaking and will serve as much as a resource as it is a narration.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
The proudest moments of my career are not the moments that brought the most attention or the biggest check. Stand out moments are performing for the youth at every stage of their education, from elementary schools locally to keynote speeches at the University of DC.

Other proud moments were being contracted for Coca-Cola as they ended their largest restructuring project at the newly minted Mercedes Benz stadium, Essence Festival 2018, and being a feature on American Armed Forces Network.

Considering all the accolades of my past, the moment I performed my Father’s Day poem, with my pops and mother in the audience for the first time to hear it, was a special moment for me.

However, the delivery of my book to my son as true labor will certainly be the proudest moment for my writing.

Pricing:

  • In Atlanta Metro Area feature price is $150
  • Out of town price is roundtrip ticket and $250
  • Custom Poem – negotiable depending on scope of project starting at $250

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Carolyn Grady, Johnathan Breton, Kamau Brothers, John Walder

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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