Most people his age would never guess that the buoyant, friendly Kendall Patterson they brush past on campus is likely walking around with a notebook full of handwritten poetry exploring feelings of depression and loneliness.
Patterson’s poetry is honest. His words are brave and unashamed of the attention they may bring him. Whether writing lines about heartbreak, misunderstood identity or deep sadness, Patterson seldom shies away from facing the human experience head-on.
What began nearly six years ago as an outlet for Patterson to vent and confront his emotions has now evolved into a full-fledged passion. Through writing this intensely personal poetry, he’s been able to better communicate his thoughts to others and identify his own emotional tendencies.
“You’re reading poetry, and then you’re thinking. It has a rhythm that you only have in your head. Songs – yes, you can sing them – but poetry is a song you can’t play out loud,” Patterson said. “It gets the ideas across better than anything else, in my opinion. It has the emotion. It has the depth.”
Patterson likened writing poetry to other ways people care for their mental health, such as opening up to close friends or seeking counseling. For him, writing poems provides that conversation.
“Poetry’s like my other friend. Just like you talk to your friend about your problems, I just write down my problems,” Patterson said. “That’s ended up being how I handle them, even if it’s just happy thoughts.”
Poetry worked as a coping tool for Patterson in high school as he came to accept his relationship with depression. Now, he said it also functions as an easily accessible version of his identity. He’s not afraid to put his emotions in front of readers or in front of himself – an idea he hopes people pick up on as they dig into his work
In April 2018, Patterson self-published 105 pages of original poetry in a book he designed and edited on his own through Amazon’s free self-publishing service. The book’s nearly 80 poems explore Patterson’s intellectual coming-of-age, his recurring feelings of depression and other personal revelations.
Though his poems have only recently been printed publicly for the first time, Patterson said the collection’s underlying concepts have been in development for years.
“I just feel like I have a lot of ideas that the public should know about, and then it allows people to know my deeper feelings if they don’t know the other side of me,” he said. “Because most people, before reading this book, would not know this stuff’s even going on in my life.”
Patterson’s deeply personal poems demonstrate a confidence and boldness he backs up in person when talking about his work. His oldest friend, Avery Shappley, said she has long been familiar with Patterson’s unabashed approach to his emotions, especially those pertaining to his relationship struggles.
“He’s always been in his feels,” Shappley said. “He’s a deep thinker. He always has been, even when we were younger.”
The two friends have known one another since sixth grade, by Shappley’s estimate. She said as they grew up and eventually attended Corinth High School together, Patterson increasingly turned to writing as a means to release some of his thoughts.
“In high school I guess in thinking that much all the time you feel like there’s just too much in your head, and I think he started to feel that way and didn’t know what to do with all of that,” Shappley said.
Shappley said that when she ordered Patterson’s new book, she was proud to see that he had turned his poetry into more than just a hobby. Though he’s been putting pen to paper for years now, Patterson only recently began considering formally publishing his work.
“Last year was when I really dove into trying to find a self-publisher and (I had) been searching and searching,” Patterson said. “Most self-publishers are pretty expensive … then, I ran across Amazon, and everything was all good.”
Patterson independently published his paperback, titled “Life & Love Beyond the Stars: A Book of Poetry,” to Amazon’s online store April 1. Though he published for free, Patterson said it was a challenge to edit and design every page of the book on his own.
“As I was making the book, I was literally thinking of other stuff to put in it, at times,” Patterson said.
That doesn’t surprise Shappley, though. She said she’s used to Patterson’s desire to share his newest discoveries with those around him.
“It’s just Kendall. It’s just his whole mind in a book, if that’s even possible,” Shappley said. “He would want it to be something that could be inspirational to some people who go through some of those same things.”
Patterson said he hopes anyone, regardless of background, identity or situation can take away a message of inspiration and self-confidence from his poetic reflections.
“We all have our different feelings, and it’s not bad to express yourself, no matter how you do it or where you do it. It’s fine to get it out there,” Patterson said. “It’s fine for guys to have depression and vent it out, because otherwise we’re holding it in, and that’s definitely not good.”
The newly published book explores what Patterson sees as life’s problems but is also full of anecdotes and personal views that show the reader who Patterson is as a person, beyond his poetry. Patterson said he puts forth his honest self and views, even though some may disagree with them.
“I’m not gonna change who I am,” he said. “I am who I am, so if you don’t like it, OK, deal with it.”