In this episode, Caleb is joined by "The Fragile Poet" Reece Ayres to talk about how poetry has helped them both with their mental health. They chat about what first got them interested in poetry, the experiences of performing and how events and open mics have helped them with self-confidence.
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poetry, that thing you studied in high school and probably haven't thought about ever since. But like many creative outlets, poetry can be really beneficial to your mental health. Today, I'm joined by the fragile poet Reece Ayres, to talk about what got him interested in spoken word and how it's helped him in times of need. I'm Caleb, and welcome to Changing MENtality. Yeah, so cheers to joining us Reece.Reece Ayres:
And thank you for having meCaleb:
on. It's good. Okay, so I'm first to talk to sort of start off where did the the the name the fragile poet come from? That's obviously what you go by. What? You think of that term? No, IReece Ayres:
think I just I wanted something that wasn't just my name. To kind of catch people's attention maybe. And, and at the time, and now to be fair, a lot more poetry's? A bit, yeah, quite emotional. So yeah, the fragile poet kind of, hopefully catches people's attention. But yeah, it was remembered in a full name.Caleb:
Yeah. Yeah. Works well, and how did you first get sort of interested in poetry?Reece Ayres:
Ummm, it certainly wasn't as a kid, because I quit school. I wasn't big on big on poetry at all. I think I always enjoyed writing short stories. And, but it was, yeah, it wasn't until uni I don't think, until I started writing myself really, that I probably got into, into poetry. And yeah, just short stories, and then they got shorter and shorter, and then they got to get into versus then. Yeah, must have started late sixth form and then kind of went on into uni after doing English literature and learning what poetry was. AndCaleb:
I think I think it's definitely very common because I'm the same in the sense that I studied it in English, like, like we all do at secondary school. And it wasn't particularly a big fan. And, and then it was, basically when I got into college, I was the exact same really, that was when I started probably getting into it, who was some of your sort of your favourite poets, then people that have inspired you, as far as your writing is concerned?Reece Ayres:
I think with kind of started with my mom, so she's not a poet, but she was into the old classics like Keating and Yeats and people like that. And, and with, with that came a bit of an appreciation for what poetry was, but like I said, it wasn't really Oh, I really want to do this, it was just that they put across a good message that give it form and things like that. But I think Poe would probably Edgar Allan Poe was probably my first like, Oh, he's he's writing how I would like to write or he's, he's sort of writing about things I would like to write about and kind of got semi obsessed with him at uni. I feel like that's a pretty common thing for English literature student to just you pick an art form that you get absolutely obsessed with and I think Edgar Allan Poe was probably one of my favourites.Caleb:
Yeah, I'm just gonna say like, is that Edgar Allan Poe is obviously a very well known, very established people that don't know poetry know who he is. And do you think as far as sort of not being interested in school, I don't, I don't think I remember anyone being particularly into, into poetry or into sort of creative stuff that wasn't music or art, really in school, and yet, a lot of the time, and do you think you think there's sort of a cultural element to not liking it? while in school?Reece Ayres:
I think like a lot of things in school, when you, you get really invested into it, like I did, I did quite a bit of music in school as well. And unless you're, unless you're cool to begin with getting into something like that isn't gonna help. So it's, yeah, it becomes a bit of a weird thing to be into, sort of in the eyes of other kids, maybe. And it's not playing football, or it's not playing rugby or anything like that. So especially for boys in school. It's either you play football, or don't talk about anything else, because no one's interested. So yeah, there's definitely a stigma growing up around it. And then, you know, when you go into university, and it's more specialised, and you've picked to go to English literature, or whatever it might be creative writing and people. They're all the same mind. But yeah, it's definitely tough to kind of come out and say that you enjoy stuff like that high school. Because,Caleb:
yeah, I mean, I was I was far from a sporty kid. So I felt the same things. Often. Yeah, I was I was far from far from a football player or anything like that. Emm going on from that. Like, I think there's obviously an exception. professional wise and job wise for men to be in STEM based jobs, science, technology, engineering, mathematics. Do, how do people react when you sort of say, Oh, you know, I'm a poet, I write poetry, even if it's not a full time job, you know, it's obviously something that you're aspiring to do. And, and, you know, it's more than just a hobby is what I get.Reece Ayres:
Yeah, I'd like to classify it as more than a hobby. I'm not entirely sure that others would. So I think that's, that's kind of the reaction that I get normally, is. If people ask me what I do, I do try and say poetry first. Because, you know, a job is a job, and it's brilliant. But if if I want to talk about something with someone, and I want to carry on a conversation, then a will bring up poetry, because that's what I like to talk about. So I'll try and say that I like poetry, or that I do poetry quite a bit. And, and then Normally, the conversation kind of goes along the lines of Oh, yeah, but what, you know, what do you get paid for? Like, just? Yeah, fine. Yeah, I do an office job. And it's alright. But can we get back on? You asked me what I do. And that's it. So yeah, I think it is kind of stigmatises just a hobby. And, and it's tough for anyone to kind of start talking about it with you, because they just want to, you know, talk about nine to five, we'll talk about lunch breaks and stuff like that. So, yeah.Caleb:
Yeah, like, I'd say, like an office job is far from a good way to spend the conversation. As I say, the poetry is far more exciting of a subject to delve into, you know, I'd much rather have that than - you know - Most people I know, basically say the same thing. You ask them, What did you do I do this, and it's the job. Yeah, you see what different? You know, colour, you know, as far as in relation to sort of mental health and what what are your, your own experiences in terms of in termsReece Ayres:
It's always been there, obviously, mental health of mental health? is always there. And mental health is good or bad. If you have been having issues with it, then it's bad. But feeling happy is also your mental health. So yeah, it's always been there. But I think it definitely, definitely became apparent in high school again, when you just don't fit in that much. And it's, it's tough to kind of put those kind of things into words, even when you do reach 17/18 years old. And you're trying to explain that, yes, I feel sad, but it's, it doesn't feel like the sad that everyone else feels Well, yes, I feel nervous. But is there another word for extra nervous all of the time. Just no one's no one's kind of that. To give you that. So looking back on it now, it definitely started early. Or at least feelings of that started early. But it's - I'm not old, but it's definitely different from now, because I do feel like it's focused on more in kids. And it's, it's brought up a lot more and kids feel, hopefully a lot easier, or a lot better to be more open about those kinds of things, rather than when I was back at school, and that was maybe, you know, if you can see the injury over there, or, you know, that kind of thing. Yeah, I think that's where it started, and then continued on to uni as it does, I was having a great time, but there was always still something there, where it still had to dark days and weeks where, again, I didn't really know how to express it that much. But have been getting more educated about those kind of things through literature as well through reading other people's feelings through poetry and stories, then, it became a lot easier to kind of Oh, that's that's how I feel then. Maybe it was something more than just on a bit sad today or I don't feel I've been around people.Caleb:
Yeah, like, I think poetry along with any other sort of creative outlet, it's, it makes I think I would put it it makes like difficult emotions quite accessible, quite easy for people. not only talk about but to also hear about as well. And yeah, as far as going into writing poetry about sort of mental health and masculinity and those sorts of subjects, how how has that helped with your own mental health?Reece Ayres:
Going back to sort of why I pick the fragile pole or even why I decided not to go by the name of Reece, when I put things out, it, it did help kind of writing as myself and putting my emotions on the page, but still keeping that little bit not as vulnerable. Because when you're writing and you're writing from, from the heart, or you know, you're writing your soul out on paper, it, it's tough, because that's all of who you are, that everything that you are that you put on paper, and you're speaking or given out to people or telling people about. And so having that name, kind of as a little bit of a barrier. That Oh, no, it wasn't Reece, right? That was a fragile poet, there might be the same person. But you know, it's, it's, it's a different, it's a different name, you know, so that's how he's feeling.Caleb:
Yeah, there is there is almost a sense of like anonymity with a stage name or with a persona or wherever, where you might I'm not sure if it's quite a persona, but you know, that sort of to not go by your real name, you know, a lot of a lot of writers have pen names, musicians have stage names in there might well be an element of the sort of the separation between the person and them as a performer. And speaking about sort of the, the anonymity, I mean, online parsing stuff is one thing, but I've obviously seen you perform in person, what has What has that been like? Because I think it's, it's very interesting, from your own experience the transition from I'm going to write something and send it to a mate. And they'll read it. And they'll say, yeah, it's all right. Because of course, they'll say it's all right. Yeah, to then go and perform in front of basically strangers, what what, what's that experience been like for you?Reece Ayres:
And it's been really, really good. I think that when I first started performing poetry, was properly was was after university. And that was a little bit of a dark period. For me, I think I was, you know, yeah, it was a really dark period for me. And I didn't really feel like I had an outlet for that. I didn't really feel like I actually had many friends. But I would, I would still go. And yeah, it was definitely an outlet I could get on stage. I mean, you know how it is with the lights in your face, wherever you are, you can't see the audience, you've got up on stage, just letting it all out to a room that you can't really see, you're a bit blinded. And then you come offstage and have a drink, and you kind of let all that out in a way that you might not get anywhere else, you know, if you don't feel like you have people to talk to, you don't feel like anyone else is there to listen. Then all you can do is get up and say it into a microphone and then eff off. You know, and so it's Yeah, it was definitely an outlet for me. And, I mean, yeah, like I said, you know, how it is with, with the Manchester scene or with, with the whole country wide, poetry scene, it is really close knit. And I think being able to be with like minded people, and who really have the same experiences as you, you rarely get into poetry with, you know, my life's been amazing. And everything around me has worked out perfectly, because you don't really have much to write about if that's the case. So the people that you meet on that journey are the same as you or have the same feelings as you so there is that mentality of a Yes, that was a really good pem, I don't be what you spoke about is how I feel. Let's talk about it. You know, it starts conversations with definitely helped me because it's tough to walk up to someone and say, in a really bad for that. Instead, you can be like a written this, you read it and tell me what you think. And then we can just go from there with a conversation.Caleb:
The start of conversation is really a powerful part of performing and I've seen people perform by this once and that was once I had performed in an open mic in Leeds, and I've gone back there a couple of weeks later, and a guy that was working at the venue recognised I went to get a drink and recognise me when all that was really gotten mad, you know, like hearing from people that you know, It's not even like people that, you know, there's no pressure for them to be, you know, nicer accepting or even as open as people often are, you know, the, you're talking about quite complex and quite heavy subjects a lot of the time. And going on from that there is always a thought I always have is, ah, is it just sort of not a not a pressure, but like an idea of like, poetry has to come from, like, negative experience, you know, because, like, you talked about the idea of like, you know, it's like minded people that have been through sort of, potentially, like similar experiences, but does it? Does it have to be that?Reece Ayres:
No, because there's plenty of poets out there, plenty of both of both of us know, that are just funny. And, or just, yeah, just full of comedy and full of full of humour. Just saying other words for humour. But yeah, just yeah, honey poets. And that's where poetry can come from, as well. I think I've always found it hard personally to, I've got a poem about it actually, called content. And it's, it's about that feeling that, you know, when, when I am happy, or when I'm feeling okay, about how things are going? Do you find it tough to write? And that can be quite dangerous I think. So, in my own head, because of the poems that I've written in the past? Yes. Personally, for me, I think that my poetry can only come from those kind of places, I am trying my best to explore other avenues. Because like I said, it can be quite dangerous as well, if I feel happy, I can't write and have a written in a while. So maybe, you know, this isn't a good feeling for me. And then that kind of attaches negativity to feeling okay, because that creativity is wrong. But the more poets and the more people who are in art who come out and say, Actually, I wrote this one, I was really happy, or I painted this one, I'm really happy. If it does really help, because a lot of the scene is full of dark emotion, or at least negative emotion. So the more people who come out and say that, yeah, the poetry can be from a really good feeling, the better. Just, I haven't had as much as I want to have and join that brigade yet. But hopefully, I will change but yeah, for me, it is tough to write from a negative feeling.Caleb:
Yeah, I think a lot of a lot of creatives go through that sort of, process of, if I'm happy, I'm not productive. And if I'm sad, I am productive. Therefore, I have to be sad to write or sad to create. And it is a vicious sort of cycle. Really. at times. And yeah, I mean, yeah, like poetry comes from joy comes from love. It comes from laughter and comedy, like you say, andReece Ayres:
how love that's the other ball. Yeah, comedy, and I kept in my head, I was like, there's gotta be another. Yeah. Love, of course, love.Caleb:
Should be loads of love poems. And, yeah, just too many. As far as, like, pursuing poetry is like a creative because it sort of impacted like confidence. You know, for me, like, it's been a huge confidence boost for me, especially from sort of being in secondary school and being in college, and maybe not being as confident.Reece Ayres:
Yeah, yeah, I think I'm the same ilk. There were. Yeah, in high school, maybe sixth form, I wasn't as outspoken, I definitely wouldn't kind of feel that I could join in with conversations or kind of just join a group of people and start talking with poetry has definitely helped that because you kind of got to, especially with open mic nights, when, you know, you can sit there and you can go up on stage and then come back and sit down in the same seat and not talk to anyone. And that can be really helpful sometimes. But the more you go, the more people you recognise. And if you are there, to try and make friends like I was at the very beginning. And yeah, it does definitely kind of push you into that. You know, you don't you don't really have time to build confidence, you decide, well, if I don't do it, then I'm never going to do it. So just launched in to it. So it's definitely how confidence with meeting new people. Especially when they're, you know, the same mind or we have at least one similar interest. You can kind of pick up a conversation with Yeah, because I think when we We've spoken in the past at poetry nights haven't we when it's, it's Yeah, it's just one of those things where new face brilliant, let's go and see what you know. Or it always gives, it always gives us subject to start a conversation with, you know, if they've been up on stage, or even if they haven't just go up to them. And the first question just needs to be either a, that was a really good set that you did up there, or the How did you think of that other set? You know, it's important that can kind of Yeah, start a conversation quite easilyCaleb:
is sort of, like the, it is a really well knit, like community. And I've found, especially during lockdown when open mics aren't happening. But still getting those connections, you're still sort of, you know, you'll meet someone at an open mic ages ago. And then I got into a Facebook group recently for writers idea, too, if you want them in a meeting people through that, despite not having the open mic, sort of you know, that setting and performing really, it's like a trial by fire, isn't it? Like you don't have the opportunity to be timid or nervous Or at least show it you have to sort of be And, you know, confident and especially in that, in that context. What's what's a lockdown been like for you, as far as not, not having that? Maybe not like community but not having like, the open mics and the events to sort of go to what, how has that impacted you?Reece Ayres:
It's definitely been tough. Just even if we're just focusing on that bit where you don't have, I mean Christ. I mean, living in Manchester is brilliant, but this could be any big city in the country, you can pretty much go to Manchester any night. And that would be an open mic night, you know, or at least you'd be very unlucky. So it is, it was a case of, you know, I need to get out I need to do something. There's going to be an open mic night somewhere. So in lockdown, if you are feeling that, that you just need to be around like minded people, or I need to get this poem out, or I just need to get out of the house, then. Yeah, it's definitely been talking about the outlet. When it showed me that a lot of my outlets are dependent on other people working as an open mic nights or go to the gym or go rock climbing. Yeah, it's all dependent on others. And a lot of those have kind of been halted for a bit. So at the beginning, it was a novelty definitely would lock down sort of, you know, it was, I don't have to get out, or, oh, I can start working from home. This is really fun. You know, the fridge is only two seconds away from me. But after a couple of weeks, maybe a couple of months it it kind of grinds you down, because you haven't seen those people in a long time, and you haven't had the chance to properly connect with them, you know, face to face. So yeah, it kind of ground me down a little bit. But with, I can't even remember what it was now, but with the slow opening of everything, we had a couple of open mic nights in the winter, was it at the very start of the winter, like a couple of them came back when bars and pubs were allowed open for a month. That definitely helped a lot. I'm still trying to ride that wave of seeing everyone for quite a short amount of time and then get them back into lockdown again, at the end of December.Caleb:
Yeah, I do think for a lot of people. I've had the same reason. I like to think I'm quite an introverted person, I can take care of myself, but I've had the exact same realisation of without this place being open and that event being on and whatever else, there isn't a lot to sort of just fill time Really. How How have you sought like if you tried like the the online open mics? Is that something that you've done? I've seen a lot of them and I just I haven't I just wonder?Reece Ayres:
Oh, no, you definitely should. You definitely should. It's, it takes a while to get used to. Because everyone's on mute. And I think that's, that's the Mad thing because I I live for that. And, you know, the clicks and the claps and people kind of being able to talk to you after all the hype of before. When that all goes away, you do just have the poetry. It takes a little bit of getting used to but it's been amazing. It's been absolutely amazing. And yeah headlines. I'm awful at times during lockdown, I have no idea whether this was yesterday or last year but on the exact lines. Yeah. mad you're in lockdown, isn't it time completely. Like it bendsCaleb:
is a blur, isn't it?Reece Ayres:
But yeah, anyway, I headline them for boce, which is really good. Poetry night quite local to myself, and and probably one of the best performances I've ever done. And no one was there in person to see it. But you do still get the buzz and do still get people sort of talking afterwards and to see people's faces man like it, it's so important to. Okay, you can't connect face to face, but we kind of are now. And it's, it's a lot easier to speak to someone and you're not typing away. So just to see even a couple of familiar faces that aren't just pictures, but are actually moving and talking to you it. Yeah, it really, really does help.Caleb:
Yeah, I think an advantage of lockdown as well has been one of the few upsides to it, I guess. Yeah, in the events that are going on the other side of the country, or even further than that are accessible, because they're all online, you know, you could be down south in London, you could buy a ticket to the boce event or any other sort of Manchester event or, or vice versa. You know, so I think that there has been an upside, if there is still a possibility of connection, it's just a very different way of connecting, isn't it? It feels like the norm now. But yeah, itReece Ayres:
we're gonna have to, yeah, I think it is going to take a bit of getting used to when things are back to normal, whatever that looks like. And whenever that is, is gonna take a little bit of getting used to, but I think we'll fall into it again, pretty easily where, you know, we're social creatures, and we definitely need that, you know, proper social interaction, that proper kind of human emotion there. So I think it'll only take a couple of months, and people are falling back to the usual behaviour, which is good, too. It's important that we do that once you're allowed and safe enoughCaleb:
Yeah, definitely, I think it is going to be a weird adjustment going back to normal whenever, whenever that may be. I think you'll get in a case of I, I know, for me, I will not put stuff off. When will that happen? You know, I am the sort of person who goes I'll do that. Another thing? I'll do that another day? No, I'm gonna do stuff when I serve when now i think i think that's a lesson that a lot of people can take from this. what's what's nearly been a year, isn't it? JustReece Ayres:
is it's absolutely mad that it's been that long. It's been that long. And also, just going back to what you said about you know, feeling like you're an introvert, I, I've always felt like I'm an introvert. But I'm an introvert when I want to be, I get to decide to and I'm an introvert and this, this lockdown has forced me to be on 24 7 365. And it's it's really switched, like you said, with, with any events that are going on any invites, you get like, yes, I'm there. Like, yes. Don't Don't even bother to ask me, just tell me where you're going to be Tell me where it is. And I'll be there I am passing up an opportunity ever again, really.Caleb:
We're going a bit back to people's reactions, but I always get the thing of if I if I if I said someone or you know, I'm a bit introverted or whatever, and they'll go, Yeah, but you put your perform and you share your writing. I'm imagining you have the same sort of conversation before with people.Reece Ayres:
Yes, yeah. It does go back to that. Almost a, you know, you can't see the audience. I've got, you know, a name that I use, there isn't my actual name. The poems really could be about anyone, even if I'm saying I could be written from the standpoint of someone else. So there's a lot of barriers that you put in the way even though you're trying to be as open as possible. So there still is a little bit of an introvert in me when I go off on stage and, and kind of don't normally make eye contact with anyone. I don't normally kind of speak that much between poems. I just kind of got their theme of poetry and, and kind of calmed down and that's, yeah, that's the introvert in me, fighting to drag me back to the chair in the dark. Hi, what are you doing? Everyone's looking at you stop. So Yeah, it's a fight that you've got to do. ButCaleb:
yeah, I think for me what I definitely prefer seeing people perform who might not be as as extroverted and as sort of outwardly confident, as you would expect, because it makes it look possible. You know, there is that element of, you know, you see sort of proper, like big famous figures, if you will, I can't do that. But then if you if you can identify with the person perform and resolve them, and of all they have done it so I can,Reece Ayres:
yeah, it does all start with that, just go into a couple of poetry nights where maybe you're not reading, you know, when you first got onto the scene, when you first start writing, just go to a couple of poetry nights, stand at the back, if you have to do only stay for 10 minutes, if you if you have to go and see the people who just like you, they're not, they're not some crazy rock stars that go out there and do their poetry in this like fanfare and they've got so much confidence in it, they just go up there read, tell a joke, maybe or try to anyway, and then, you know, get offstage. And yeah, it's really easy to read anything really, it's really easy to perform an event is to pick it up and get yourself worked up about it. Just go and see how, see how nice people are see how lovely the surrounding is. AndCaleb:
yeah, I think I think you me both are far from a rock star status at this at this point.Reece Ayres:
As much as I try with about poetry.Caleb:
Yeah, it's Yeah, it's not it's not quite rock and roll this this we would aspire to be and what what sort of advice would you give to people who might want to sort of pursue poetry or other interests that are very solid, openly emotional? Good question, becauseReece Ayres:
I, until I, until I went to poetry nights, and it took a couple of go ins, I didn't have any friends that were into poetry or spoken word or, you know. But I think it definitely helped me coming from a drama background as well, that that kind of idea of getting up on stage and trying to be someone else, or at least slightly pretended to be, came a bit easier to me than others. So whatever your interest is, that takes takes a lot of emotion, nothing like music or anything like that. Just get into something in that area. So it doesn't, if you're an artist, and you find it difficult to kind of open up, then get into drama, if you can get into music, if you can just find some way of allowing yourself to open up a little bit. And that can kind of spread across all areas. Because I know that if I if I didn't do drama at sixth form in university, there's no way I'd be getting up on stage now. Absolutely no way. So it is just that it doesn't have to be specific to what you do right now. It just needs to be a way of you to learn how to kind of strip away everything else and leave yourself there, which is super tough. But yeah, there are a lot of things that you can get into that will allow you to do that. And you can transfer to, like painting or music or anything like that. It's quite an easily transferable skill that you can then add your own talents to and come up with your own stuff.Caleb:
Thanks for listening. Now to close the show. Here's Reece Ayres with 'Content'.Reece Ayres:
The previous is flowing in your mind is free, so hard to write content. When the day goes well, you haven't shed a tear, so hard to write when your content poetry is full of sadness. And the words flow with darkness because it's so hard to write when you're content when you found the love that versus promise, and the poetry book comes to life, so hard to write when you're content. So I enter the slums of my mind like an explorer seeking despair. Because it's so damn hard to write. When your content I find a hate in the crevices of my soul and sorrow has long been buried. Because I know it's so hard to write when your content the courses through my body, like snakes and streams out my pen like them. Now it's not so hard to write, because I'm depressed. But that's the poet's way and that's our curse to take. Because I simply cannot write when I'm content. Another corner of this room seems like a better place for me. And the candlelit cave that is my desk for these words have taken chunks from me and this ink will leave it scars but at least I have written by and no longer content