Fly Don’t Fall – Casey Soma

My name is Casey Soma, I’m a multimedia artist and poet based in Nottingham. I’m also the creative director of Mad Truth, an arts organisation based around the power of creative expression for improving mental health and promoting personal growth.

I’ve been writing poetry for as long as I can remember, tomes of words and phrases etched like cave paintings onto the inside covers of my school books, poetry was, is, and will continue to be a method of pure and honest communication with myself, that then bends, shifts and contorts itself onto the page in the form of the written word.

Early this year I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work on a graphic novel called ‘The Insomniac and The Shadow’ with an organisation called Nottingham C.A.N, this story, for which I crafted the narrative, was deeply personal and followed my experiences as an insomniac, aimless, alone and forever roaming in the early hours searching for what I now know, to be a sense of truth within myself. I followed the creative process like a trusted guide and after completing the insomniac found myself further entwined and immersed in this inner voice that seemed to connect the dots of my troubled youth and finds me now producing a poetry anthology funded by The Mighty Creatives entitled Fly Don’t Fall.

I originally applied to the Young Empowerment Fund with all these ambitious plans to produce not only the anthology but an accompanying short film to go alongside it, consisting of multiple dream-like, surrealist vignettes that would somehow spell out an overarching narrative for the project. Fortunately, I had a lot of very good advice from the people who were coaching me at YEF, who were, and continue to be a much valued and appreciated source of support, (practical and moral alike) the Youth Empowerment Fund helped me to take these grand ideas, which are almost cosmic in scope sometimes and bring them back down to earth and over the last few months not only have I made something so beautiful, and so special. I have been shown that I’m more than capable of everything that I was afraid I couldn’t do. I’ve met some incredible, talented and beautifully generous people and I’m so grateful for the opportunity, the experience, and the overall outcome of Fly Don’t Fall.

Fly Don’t Fall is a collection of poetry chronicling my journey with my mental health and sense of self from the beginning of my project Mad Truth around three years ago, to now. It starts in places that are often dark, filled with desperation, alienation, and frustration at the inability to articulate the very thing which induced a continuous flow of dissatisfaction, pain and unease, and flows like a powerful river through my experiences in the last few years finding me now in a place of self acceptance, striving for the inner peace which eluded me throughout my childhood and into my late adolescence when the darkness in my life overwhelmed me and I was forced blessedly to start again.

I had approached my friend Sam Leonardo Pearce, an incredible visual artist (who runs his own Art shop under Mischief Teller selling unique prints, artwork and jewellery with the goal of empowering and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community) several months earlier with the idea of creating a poetry book.

Our schedules didn’t quite match up then, which in a way I’m grateful for as it allowed us to create a space during the creative process of Fly Don’t Fall that is unlike any other collaborative experience I’ve had so far. Sam can seamlessly shift styles, from whimsical, colourful cartoons to Salvador Dali-esque dreamscapes overflowing with feeling, inducing states in me that are simultaneously beautiful, heart-warming and sometimes terrifying.

We had many deeply philosophical conversations during which I mostly bombarded Sam with a stream of consciousness shopping list of influences including album after album after album, the musician and artist Goldie’s Aurum Gallery in Thailand, various films that have influenced me including ‘A girl walks home alone at night’ and ‘Fight Club’, esoteric and rather vague ramblings on depth psychology and eastern mysticism, that Sam later would transform into the beautiful illustrations that mirror the poems themselves. Not all our conversations were as one sided however, we touched on our shared love of both high and low forms of Asian art (Ukiyo wood-block prints as well as certain styles of Manga) and I was introduced to an incredible Japanese artist called Junji Ito.

Creating this anthology is a truly collaborative process and it’s been both rewarding and deeply validating to see my words, some of which were written over three years ago finally come to life. We’re currently in the final stages of the concept art, then we’ll move onto finalising the images, typesetting as well as making T-shirts and art prints (of artwork featured on Mad Truth’s social media) to be sold alongside the physical copy of the poetry anthology at Nottingham’s Carousel on the seventeenth of January 2022.

Mad Truth and Fly Don’t Fall are very mindful about mental health and so the date of the launch event falling on ‘Blue Monday’ the most miserable day of the year is not a coincidence. We hope to spread love, light, positivity and awareness. While at the same time using the launch as a catalyst for a new Nottingham gallery called Truth Gallery, part art gallery, part music studio, part soundstage, part youth centre, part film-studio. Truth Gallery will be a true multi-purpose art space that we can use to work with amateur and professional artists alike, aged sixteen to twenty-six around the idea of giving people who don’t have a voice a voice. And a loud one at that.