Rhys hopeful his book will help when life isn’t ‘golden’
At the heart of Animate is a message of hope.
Rhys Campbell wrote the collection of 40 poems as he struggled through depression and anxiety.
Putting his thoughts down helped him through; he believes the poems can have the same effect on others who are having difficulty with life challenges.
“This book has been in the works for, I want to say, three or four years. It is very transparent in its approach about modern society, the troubles we do go through and the hope that should be instilled in that; that's essentially how I feel about it. The theme of hope is consistent throughout and I hope it offers the same hope when people read it. I definitely feel I’ve given a solid attempt at offering hope throughout the book.”
Mr Campbell released his first poetry collection, From the Pink Sands, last year. Intended as a tribute to his island home, his hope was that it captured “what it was to be Bermudian, some of the Bermudian lingo and just the wholesome radiance of [her people]”.
With only 11 poems, his first effort was a pamphlet whereas Animate is a proper book, he said.
Friends and acquaintances were candid about “their suffering with mental health and how they felt about it”. Mr Campbell used it all as inspiration for his poems.
“I definitely feel like I've drawn inspiration from that to find hope throughout this because this world is beautiful. I feel like people need to understand how beautiful it really is, regardless of their experiences.”
Although the poems were written during a lonely period for many people, the pandemic was not the cause of his mental health issues, Mr Campbell said.
“Life isn't always as golden as we want it to be,” he said. “It can be tough for some people regardless. Some people are born into this world with harder situations than others and some experience much harder experiences in their life. So no, it's not Covid necessarily, but, of course, I was writing during the time of Covid and that definitely did not help. It definitely pushed me towards that subject.”
Initially, he was only putting his thoughts down, but once he realised how cathartic the poems were, he decided to share them.
“It took a long time because the objective was never to write a book. It just so happened after time that I had all these poems and I [said], hang on, I can make a book out of this.
“But originally the plan was not to put it out there. It was just my own work that I could look to. I found writing definitely helped me understand my own experiences. I understood how to look at life and navigate life differently and I really hope when people read that that they find solace in that as well.”
Getting others to share an intimate part of their life wasn’t as difficult as people might assume, he added.
They say you can choose your friends,
But you can’t choose your family,
Beware of hallmark wisdom
Telling you that blood runs thicker than water,
It silences the nuances of our emotion and connection.
On reflection, What are friends,
If not family?
I find myself blissfully happy with my crew,
We’ve hit hurricanes,
Where calm waters usually ebb,
We fought off pirates
To come out with a more polished vessel.
The missing nails and sails,
Badges of honour.
The missing limbs and minds,
Trophies from a battle won.
No one makes it to the end without scars
We must accept our vulnerability;
It makes us stronger; in the long run
And this life is a marathon,
There will always be a time when we trip and fall.
If there is no one there to catch you,
There is always gravel.
It is vital to know when to sleep with one eye open,
Some of the crew drink too much
The others sleep too little,
We’re all on different levels of the social hierarchy,
Just like ships,
We’re made of connected integral parts
Some of us more capable of weathering the storms
And keeping warm
When the bitter winds start to blow.
On the grey days,
We find our tears on each other’s shoulders,
When the sun breaks through the clouds,
We can laugh so deeply
Our ribs start to protest
And a different kind of tear manifests,
One that affirms our love unconditional
“I feel like in 2023 a lot of people do struggle, and it's no secret. You'd be in conversations and as long as you speak to someone for long enough, you start to realise; you can develop this bond of understanding where they've come from regardless of their situation. You realise they also struggle; the truth is we all struggle. And the longer I've had these conversations with people, the more I understand about their story, and that basically developed into these poems.
“It's not every poem that talks about mental health. Each chapter is its own experience, its own perspective. It's kind of a journey, but I definitely feel like some poems I entirely dedicated just to being hopeful to evolve. But I don't feel like any poem that tackles any of these experiences head on is necessarily full of that alone. There is always something golden in it.”
Feedback has been great from everyone who has read it so far.
“I'm very happy with how it's turned out. I really sat down for many hours — many, many hours — and made sure that this is, in my eyes, as good as it can be.”
• Animate is available in Bermuda Book Store now and will soon be available in Brown & Co
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