Daniel Scott Tysdal on Writing Exercises and The Writing Moment

I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Scott Tysdal about writing exercises and his book The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems.

If memory serves (and it usually does not), I met Daniel Scott Tysdal when he submitted a chapbook manuscript to my micropress, The Martian Press. I loved and published the book, Acts of Barbarity and Vandalism, poems produced through the erasure of texts relating to genocide, in 2006.

That same year saw the publication of Tysdal’s debut collection, Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method. This book remains one of the most impressive debuts by a Canadian author, in my view, and solidified my admiration for Tysdal and his work.

Now Tysdal has teamed up with Oxford UP to produce the best book on writing poetry I have ever seen, and the only book on the craft of writing poetry that I recommend. From the preface:

“The second assumption about the creative process upon which this book is founded derives from the first assumption: if poems arise out of a convergence of occasions, then the best way to teach the tools, techniques, and traditions of poetry is to immerse poets in the complex blend of occasions that characterizes the act of writing. This immersion is an effective way to encourage poets to write poems that — to honour the root of the word “verse” — turn, unfold dynamically with ingenuity, imagination, and skill. The following chapters accomplish this immersive introduction to craft by pairing my thoughts on a topic with a series of practical, hands-on writing moments.

“These writing moments are micro-writing exercises that invite you to try your hand at the topic under discussion. I call these short exercises writing moments because of the helpful double meaning of moment. These writing moments are “moments” because they will only take a short time to complete and because, when you undertake them, you will be “having a moment,” experiencing a break from the day-to-day that may already be common practice for you: turning—from a dinner table conversation or from an obligation at work or from a mindless stroll—to your notebook to scribble down the line or the form or the vision that just struck you.

“The writing moments have been designed with two goals in mind. The first goal is to immerse you in this meeting of life and art, this convergence of occasions, by coupling active practice with abstract explanation; as is the case with all poets, your reading process will also become your writing process. The second is to initiate you into the two extreme poles of the poetic practice: the work—the writing routine, the daily grind, the practice that becomes a habit—and the invigorating experience of inspiration—the burst of insight or feeling with which a poem so often begins (and the experience that can transform the writing habit into an addiction). Writing moments take place within the purview of both of these poles, nurturing your habit and stimulating you to compose new work.

“Each section also ends with a number of writing exercises and a pair of sample poems composed by some of the many talented students with whom I have had the good fortune to work. The writing exercises will give you the opportunity to further expand on the work undertaken during the writing moments, encouraging you to test out the new lessons and techniques as you compose new poems.” (xiv-xv)

Daniel Scott Tysdal is the author of three books of poetry, Fauxccasional Poems (forthcoming from Icehouse, 2015), The Mourner’s Book of Albums (Tightrope, 2010), and Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method (Coteau, 2006). Predicting received the ReLit Award for Poetry (2007) and the Anne Szumigalski Poetry Award (2006). Oxford University Press published his poetry textbook, The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating Poems (2014). He is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Toronto Scarborough. In 2012, the UTSC student newspaper, The Underground, named him one of their four “Professors of the Year.”

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