Let’s jump back in to meet another insta-poet, shall we? His words have cultivated a fanbase unlike no other. His poems have touched upon sensitive subjects such as anxiety and loneliness and more. One reader explained how his words resonated with her too well. She appreciated that he put into words what she was feeling as it was both cathartic and comfortable. Another commented on his rich imagery. Suffice it to say, we had to talk to him and he was very excited to get on board and have a chat with us about his writings and inspirations. Let us begin!
NQD: Hi there, The Morbid Optimist. That’s a juxtaposition if we’ve ever seen one! Can you tell us why you chose to call yourself that?
TMO: The juxtaposition of it was one of the main reasons I chose it, I think it’s because I myself feel like a juxtaposition of a person. I’m full of contradictions that just happen to work with each other. The one main reason I chose to name myself The Morbid Optimist was because of the beauty I saw in things others deemed to be unpleasant or disturbing (which, when you boil it down, is very subjective.) I always saw much more beauty in the broken than I did in anything else. Where one sees an abandoned “haunted” house, I see a skeleton of a home that once was, and, to some extent, I feel like one myself. I find skeletons absolutely beautiful, I find beauty in death, havoc, sadness and other things that don’t usually strike people as beautiful.
Another reason is that in situations where one would usually feel happy/cheerful (let’s take sitting with friends in a Coffeeshop as an example.) I would often find myself thinking “What if this place burnt down to the ground right now, with all of us (my friends and I) in it? Would it not still be beautiful to go surrounded by people who make you happy?" And that’s (in a nutshell) why I chose the name. It’s the contradiction in the name that I feel in myself every day, so it only seemed right.
NQD: Tell us, were you one of those kids who kept a journal and filled it to the brim only to find yourself drawn to write more? Or did the writer’s bug find you at a later time? We’d love to hear that origin story.
TMO: As a child, I actually didn’t write much, or at all, really. I never kept a journal or a diary and I’ve got a photographic memory, so the words never seemed to quite do it as a child for me. The writer’s bug found me only three to four years ago I think. I don’t regret the circumstances that led me to writing although they were quite negative. I wrote my first few lines after getting out of the traumatic experience of being in an abusive and toxic relationship, during the course of which I lost everything around me (friends, family, myself). Initially, I just wrote to cope and put the demons in my head onto paper as it was sort of a release. I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t even think I was writing anything substantial or special. Sure there were metaphors galore in what I wrote, but I always thought in metaphors as well, so again it didn’t seem like anything special at the time. I’d write for hours and hours, sometimes I’d be driving and a thought would pop into my head and I’d pull over on the side of the road just to write it down and continue driving. Other times I’d be falling asleep (that’s when the best ones come) and I'd wake myself up write them down and go back to sleep.
NQD: Where would you say you draw your poetic inspirations from?
TMO: My poetic inspiration has always been my own internal thoughts and struggles, as well as my own personal real-life experiences. I deal with quite a cocktail of mental illnesses and so the writing helps keep me grounded and not floating away inside my own skull.
NQD: How have your readers' responses been thus far? Can you talk to us about some of your favorites?
TMO: Honestly? Incredible. I had no idea people would even read what I wrote, let alone resonate with it. It still seems unreal and every time someone does respond to something I’ve written, I find it takes a while to sink in.
There have been a lot of responses, people mentioning their partners on some of my posts on Instagram, people reaching out to me through direct messages or through the comments, or even sharing on their own stories. There are a few responses however, that definitely stand out.
One such response was during my exhibition Think Feel Hear See at Sonder, my safe haven and the only place I truly feel at home, I watched a couple walk in, take notice of my poems hanging on the wall, and taking the time to read each and every one. There were hundreds hanging on those walls, it was incredible to me that someone would take the time to read things that came out of my mind. When they had finished, they both sighed and said, “That was heavy, wow.” I never imagined that would happen. That’s one of the first responses I ever got to my writing, I remember it like it happened yesterday.
Another time at Sonder, right after one of the poetry nights in which I performed, I was approached by a complete stranger who asked if she could talk to me. She then said: “You don’t know me, and I didn’t even know who you were, but your writing saved my life, and the poem you just performed made me feel like I’m not alone and I can’t thank you enough for that." I was in absolute awe and I shed a few tears because I know what it’s like to feel like you’re the only one on earth feeling what you’re feeling. That’s something I’ll never forget.
As I put more and more of my work out there, I kept getting very similar responses, people telling me that my poems help, that they feel like they’re not alone, that my poems make them feel like there’s still hope. It’s incredible and honestly it’s the only thing that keeps me going sometimes.
NQD: What’s one misconception about poets that you whole-heartedly disagree with and why?
TMO: There’s a common misconception that we’re all sad all the time, or that our feelings are amplified to an unreal extent. I couldn’t disagree with that more. We’re people, just like anyone else, sometimes we’re happy and sometimes we’re sad and sometimes we’re neither. Our emotions aren’t amplified, we just release through words (I speak for myself of course.)
NQD: What would your life look like if you weren’t a poet? What other art forms do you see yourself gravitating towards?
TMO: I can’t imagine what it would look like, even though I’ve only been writing for a few years. It feels like I was asleep the whole time before I started writing. I do however practice several art forms. I’m a filmmaker and a photographer, I paint and play a few instruments.
NQD: Going through your poetry, we’ve noticed that your words tend to wrap themselves around different themes including anxiety, loneliness, heartbreak, etc. How important is the topic of mental health to you?
TMO: It’s the reason I write. I’ve been diagnosed with Clinical Depression, major Anxiety Disorder, complex PTSD, OCD, and Acute Agoraphobia. I struggled with alcoholism and other substances for quite a while too. I write because it helps me live with my mind instead of fighting it all the time. I put what I write out so that maybe, somewhere halfway across the globe, one person reads something and realizes they’re not alone. We’re all human, we’re all people. We all feel things and we all don’t feel okay sometimes, and that’s okay, it’s okay not to be okay.
NQD: Poetry on Instagram is a budding genre and you yourself are an Instagram poet with over 600 followers online. What are your thoughts on the people who scoff at this genre, claiming it's not real poetry?
TMO: The definition of “real” poetry is extremely subjective and debatable. We live in a digital age. Digital platforms are just another means of sharing information/art/experiences. The fact that I or any other poet/artist/creator decides to put their material on an online platform doesn’t devalue it. If art speaks to people, is it not the right thing to do then to get your art out to people?
NQD: Are all your poetic expressions 100% true, or are some of them born out of pure imagination, albeit inspired by real-life emotions?
TMO: I think in metaphors and similes, so however mythical some of my work might be, when you read between the lines you’ll see that they’re all real-life experiences, just worded differently. All of my poetic expressions stem from the truth. I find that writing with complete honesty helps me bare my soul a bit better when I write.
NQD: Do you see yourself being the voice behind a fictional character in a fictional world of your own making?
TMO: All the time. In fact, when I write, I usually do imagine a fictional world for almost every piece of work that I put out.
NQD: What if you were to collaborate with an illustrator, another poet, a photographer, etc. what kind of projects would you like to accomplish and put out there?
TMO: I’d love to work on visual representations of some of my poems. I feel like that would add another dimension of relatability to them. I’d also like to see people’s interpretations of my poems, I feel like that would help build connections with people. I’d also like to collaborate with other artists to create projects that promote mental health awareness and what it feels like to be mentally ill.
NQD: Name a favorite poet/fictional author that you would love to have a conversation with. What would you talk about?
TMO: Bukowski. Hands down. I think due to the fact that some of my work has been compared to his and I find that very interesting and absolutely unreal. I’d talk about life, his experiences, love, lust, death, addiction, the area in the Venn diagram that they all overlap, what feelings provoke what words, that kinda thing.
NQD: What kind of advice would you bestow upon someone who just started getting into crafting their own poetry?
TMO: Do it for you. Do it because you want to say something, anything. Do it because it makes you feel good, don’t force it. It’s okay not to write every day. It’s okay if you like some of your pieces more than others. Do it because it helps you breathe. Let it flow. Don’t worry about what people will think of it. Let yourself feel. Let your mind breathe.
NQD: Do you have any plans to publish a book someday?
TMO: I do! My debut book is set to launch sometime this year and I’m nervous but extremely happy about it.