– Vancouver Sun | By Dana Gee –
With his new book of poetry The Dark Between Stars now officially a New York Times bestseller, Atticus could understandably turn the page on that whole Instagram anonymous poet thing.
But the mask-wearing twenty-something from somewhere on the west coast of B.C. is happy to keep the status quo and his online fans — close to one million Instagram followers — satiated while still finding time to feed his own soul through actual contact with fans like the ones he will meet during his upcoming book tour stops in B.C.
The Venice Beach-based star will be in Victoria at Munro’s Books on Oct. 24 and in Vancouver at the Indigo on Robson Street on Oct. 25.
“It’s an incredible opportunity to connect with people. Instagram only gives you so much, and it’s not quite real, is it?” said Atticus, whose first collection of poetry Love Her Wild inspired young women everywhere to tattoo the title on their bodies.
“It is meeting the people who are connecting with the words and hearing their stories and seeing their tattoos. It’s just incredible.”
Atticus said not everyone in his audience (mostly women aged 15 to 35) are comfortable baring their soul to him in person while standing under the fluorescent lights of a chain bookstore, but that doesn’t stop them from reaching out in a little more discreet fashion.
“I’ll go home and read these incredible messages of hope,” said Atticus, about notes that get passed to him during personal appearances. “For example, I got this message the other day from a girl. She said: ‘Seven years ago I was sexually abused and today is the seventh anniversary of that moment and I heard somewhere that your body replenishes all its cells in seven years and today marks it and I got a tattoo, your tattoo in honour of that.’
“Things like that are very powerful and humbling.”
For the record, the Atticus quote the woman inked on herself was: “She conquered all her demons and wore her scars like wings on her back.”
Atticus’s new book keeps with his themes of light, love and women — this is a dude who is indeed in touch with his feminine side — but this time out there’s some dark to contend with, as the book came on the heels of the breakup of a long-term relationship.
“I think it really helps to get it down to process it. It helps to write about what it feels like to get out of a relationship and be searching for self and searching for new love,” said Atticus, on writing about a broken heart.
Raised in a house of women (he has an older sister and two younger ones) it is no surprise Atticus gets the gals. He dedicated the new book to his mom and said she was instrumental in introducing him to poetry.
“I was around so many women in my life, wonderful and powerful women that it is just ingrained,” said Atticus, who, yes, admitted his sisters did put makeup on him and dress him up once in a while.
He likes to tell the story of a little sister telling him about a mask-wearing poet she was following online and him happily divulging that he was that guy. The family hasn’t signed nondisclosure agreements, but they know the mask is something he is not willingly going to take off even if he is now a New York Times bestselling author. He said it’s not a gimmick, but more of a guarantee that he stays true to his real self not the celebrity character.
“To me it is not about keeping my identity precious. It has never been about that,” said Atticus. “As it relates to fame and notoriety and that sort of thing, well, I’m not really interested in that. That’s part of the reason I keep the mask on.
“As soon as you are recognized, I think it changes your writing and I want to avoid that as much as possible.”
When not penning poems or meeting with fans, Atticus has other irons in the fire, but of course he won’t even hint at what those may be. He said when out and unmasked there is no problem answering the “what do you do for a living question?”
“I do a lot of different things. Poetry is just one of the things I do,” said Atticus.
When he is on the road he travels with three masks, just in case.
“I worry about it a lot,” said Atticus, when asked about mask loss or malfunction. “They are harder masks to find than you would think.”
What makes them harder to find is their reflectiveness, a quality that actually suits his needs.
“I was at a talk a few nights ago and a psychologist came up to me and was like: ‘I don’t know why you chose the reflective mask, but I will say I think it is quite beautiful that you chose the reflective mask because it allows people to see themselves in you.’ I was like, ‘Wow, that is so beautiful. I’m going to tell people that is why I chose this mask,’” said Atticus.
But the funny thing is the mask never really comes up when Atticus is out at speaking and meeting events.
“One of the beautiful things is my real fans, the ones I connect with the most, don’t even want to know,” said Atticus. “They don’t have any interest in knowing. They like the secret. What I have been told is that with the anonymity I can be anyone they need me to be. I love when they say that. We share that. I don’t really want to talk about it and they don’t ask. Which is beautiful.”
What they do ask a lot about is writing. How can they learn to get their feelings out in short-form poetry? How can they become the next Atticus?
“People are interested in writing, want to get into writing or they are writers and they’re interested in my process,” said Atticus, who has created poems that are projected on the big screen during Norwegian DJ Kygo’s concerts. “They ask about everything from writer’s block to how to get a book deal. The most beautiful thing I hear is when someone says I read something and it inspired me to write and I just started writing.
“It’s so beautiful when young people get interested in words,” said Atticus. “I think short-form poetry is a gateway drug into the classics, classical literature. I think that more young people are getting interested in words and that’s really special.”