Tell us a little about yourself (who you are, background, etc.) My name is Mario Reyes. I grew up in the Bronx, New York, Co-op City, “Q4 Forever.” I joined the Air Force at the age of 18. After my time in the military, I got into IT consulting and still continue to that till this day. I am a poet turned author. I just released a new book, “A Son with No Father A Book with No Author.” I’m also a father of two beautiful children.
What led you to pursue poetry? I was born in 1980, in the Bronx! I was born in hip-hop. Skinny kid in the Bronx—you better be nice with something! So when I starting writing, of course my words were raps. When I was stationed in Langley, [VA], I met a girl who went to Hampton University and she put me on to the Harlem Renaissance which opened me up to more art. Also, I had trouble rhyming on beat so thus, poetry.
What was the inspiration behind A Son with No Father A Book With No Author?
For a time, I lived in Baltimore and while I was at the barbershop one day–my barber was giving out fatherly advice to a few kids. Seeing that made me come up with the line, “A Son with No Father is a book with no Author.” That line stuck with me and I turned it into a poem. After I moved to Atlanta, I decided to take on the challenge of turning the poem into a book.
What’s the message you want people to get from reading your book? I want everyone to know the value of fatherhood. I hope it this book echoes the values and principles I was taught in my house.
How does an artist like yourself overcome the idea of vulnerability that comes with being a creative? Having a moniker like mine, Papi Picasso, can help. People adopt a moniker because they can be their own versions of a superhero. For me, a poem is just a snapshot of yourself. As an artist, I’m giving you a part of me so that it helps you later but know that’s one part of me.
What was your fatherhood experience like growing up and how did that impact you as a father yourself? I was fortunate to never have to worry about if and when my dad was coming home. He was consistent about his day-to-days moves. That consistency gave me security for my home life. He was a favorite amongst my friends because my father always included them on my family outings. He was encouraging. He was a great example to myself and others around me. Definitely one of those guys that his actions spoke louder than his words.
What impact does your children make on your life? I call my children my “Pride and Joy.” My son is my pride because no one can make a man prouder than his son. No one can make you happier than baby girl. It’s been a bit harder writing about my daughter because that’s a man’s vulnerability as opposed to the vanity with his son.
What advice do you find yourself sharing with others that’s new on the fatherhood journey? Presence matters. I think some people try to avoid seeing their child because they don’t want the child to see their poor behavior. At my Kingdom Son workshop, I tell boys all the time to be a thermostat and not the thermometer. Don’t get caught up in being a “product of their environment.” That’s not taking accountability in your own actions. Control the environment you’re in, don’t let the environment control you.
You have a shirt that says, “masculinity is not a a dirty word.”– Why has the word, “masculinity” become so tainted? I believe people are confusing tradition with masculinity. Sometimes, you have to put a period where a comma used to be. Sometimes, inherited traits and ideologies may have to stop with you—especially once you recognize it. You as an individual has to make your own definition of masculinity.
What has the reception been like from the Kingdom Son workshop?
The workshop has truly been the best thing to come out of this project! Tears comes the these father’s eyes because they’re writing their sons a love letter. The feedback has always when are we doing this again? We really wanted to zone in on the communications commitment between the parent and child.
List your top 5 pieces literature?
- Ta-Nehisi Coates – Between the World and Me
- Robert Green – 48 Powers of Law
- Toni Morrison – Bluest Eyes
- Scott Adams – God’s Debris
- Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
Do you have any ritual that you do to get yourself prepared for performances? If it’s a new poem, I step outside and repeat it over and over again until it’s time to perform. I put on my “mask” and turn on that switch for Papi Picasso to arrive. When it comes to writing, I write late at night over some dope instrumental(s) then get to writing. I also have a shirt that says write drunk and edit sober so that’s some advice for you as well.
What are some dream stages you want to perform on? My quintessential stage will be at the inauguration of AOC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, when she becomes president of the United States. Until then,
“The Garden” is number #1.
The Apollo is number #2. I’ve a New Yorker.
Detroit at The Fox Theater is # 3
If you could write a short letter to your father starting with “Dear Father,” what would you say?
Thank you for setting the bar high enough for me to pull up. I love you, Bendicion.
Where can folks find you on the “innanet?”
Facebook: Papi Picasso Poetry