Who is Atticus? West Coast Canadian's short poems long on inspiration
– Vancouver Sun | By Dana Gee –
To be honest, it would be so easy to dismiss an Instagram poet who doesn’t follow the rules of poetry, wears a mask and whose biggest supporters are a supermodel and coterie of young Hollywood stars.
Oh, and who was voted “the world’s most tattoo-able” poet by Galore magazine.
Yes, take that, you big drag Sylvia Plath.
“I don’t mind it all,” says Atticus, the aforementioned anonymous Instagram poet about being called an Instagram poet and not just a poet.
“I think it is a beautiful thing that is happening. I think it is a resurgence of poetry and a whole new audience is having fun with words and re-finding poetry and I feel like, in a lot of ways, poetry online is a gateway drug, as it were, to long-form poetry.”
Atticus is a 20-something guy from the West Coast of Canada (that’s the narrowest geographical locale he’ll cop to) who has built an online career on short poems and inspirational lines like “you deserve to be the person you were meant to be,” or “I’m tired of their stories, let’s write our own.”
Yes, a cynic would sigh and roll their eyes, but almost 400,000 people (including Karlie Kloss, Emma Roberts, Kunal Nayyar and Shay Mitchell) follow Atticus on Instagram — and a lot of them see his words as worthy of being inked into their skin. Roberts is even hosting a poetry contest with Atticus on her book club site Belletrist.
“I never expected it and it was insanely humbling when I got the first tattoo,” Atticus said over the phone recently from his Venice, Calif., home. “Then the first hundred and then the first thousand. ‘Wow, these humans feel the words mean so much to them they are putting them on their bodies permanently.’”
All this inking began a couple of years ago. According to Atticus, the line that fires up his mostly 14- to 35-year-old female fan base faster than you can say “Teen Vogue is the new journalism” is: Love her but leave her wild.
Atticus’s Insta feed is sparse in design and is structured to focus the viewer on the few words and sentences he highlights in each box. However, as of late the online guru is going old school and entered the bricks-and-mortar world of books.
He has put out a book of poetry (some short, some long) called Love Her Wild. And Atticus, mask and all, will be here in Vancouver Thursday, July 20 (7 p.m.), for a reading and signing at the Indigo Chapters at Metrotown.
A read through Atticus’s Instagram and it is clear why chicks dig him. He indeed appears to be a man in touch with his feminine side.
“If you’ve read my work you know it is my favourite theme, the power of the female spirit,” he says. “It probably comes from having so many sisters and incredible women in my life, and I just love writing about that. I have a massive amount of female energy in my life.”
With three sisters, Atticus has a legitimate insight into the feminine side, though some detractors say he goes a little heavy on the damaged damsel stuff.
“I just write what I think is truthful,” he says. “It connects for different reasons. I wouldn’t say that exclusively people are broken that read it. I feel like we are all broken in our own ways and I am just being honest about it, and people are like ‘I feel like that sometimes. I feel down. I feel broken. I feel heartbreak.’ I don’t think that is a negative thing.”
In fact, Atticus thinks the opposite is true.
“I think it is very self-medicating, if that makes sense. It is certainly therapeutic to connect with a more vulnerable side,” he says. “I grew up riding motorcycles — a good Canadian boy fishing and everything — so the vulnerable side of this thing is very strange to me. But I think it is important to connect to that side of ourselves because society pushes you not to.”
Atticus freely admits he has been able to tap more easily into his vulnerable side thanks to the mask.
And it seems to be working. He has celebrity followers and a good book deal. He says his online presence has led to offers and partnerships, and that world is becoming more successful than his other job. A job that, of course, he can’t talk about, what with the whole anonymous thing. All he’ll say is he owns his own business and no, he isn’t making knock-off Moleskine journals with his own quotes on the covers. Although he likes the idea when I bring it up.
“I’m not precious as to who I am, that’s not what it is all about for me. It started with me just wanting to remind myself to write what I feel, not what I think I should feel,” he says. “I felt like I could do that most effectively with a mask and keeping it anonymous. I didn’t want it to bleed into my other life. Atticus is Atticus and I am me. I didn’t want to meld those things together.”
For the record, the only people who are wise to Atticus are his immediate family and a few friends.
One of his own sisters, in fact, didn’t even know his alter ego until a year ago.
“My little sister was away at university when I started writing and she followed me for two years before she found out I was writing. It was funny,” he says. “That meant a lot to me; she was a fan and she didn’t know. That was cool.”
Whisky shows up regularly in Atticus’s poems, so we can assume he likes a drink. The question is, has he had some loose lips after having too many sips?
“I have gotten pretty close,” Atticus says, adding: “I’m not looking for instant fame or for someone to buy me a drink.”
Instead, he says he is looking at things long term. Well, social media long term.
“I have maybe a two-year, three-year plan. I have a bunch of books and ideas and partnerships, brand partnerships and content ideas I want to play out,” says Atticus. “I haven’t looked that hugely in the future. Right now I am trying to get better at poetry.”
So how is he doing that?
“I was lucky enough to go and take courses at Oxford in England and it taught me entirely how little I know about poetry and how awful I now think I am at poetry. I am very aware at how much I have to learn,” he says. “I’m trying to really get better and learn the rules so I can more effectively break them.”