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Daniel Scott Tysdal imagines alternative universes in new book of poetry

Daniel Scott Tysdal's new book of poetry made the CBC Books list of hottest poetry collections for 2015 (Photo by Ken Jones)

Imagine a world where John F. Kennedy evades assassination and lives to the tender age of 92 or one where Barrack Obama compliments his politics with a career as a poet.

Or maybe a world where the crew of the Enola Gay refuse to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and the Iroquois colonize Europe in the 12th century.  In Fauxccasional Poems, UTSC Associate Professor Daniel Scott Tysdal does just that – conjuring events that never took place and creating alternative universes in the process.     

“There’s an escapist element to these poems,” says Tysdal, who started crafting the poems in 2012. “There’s a quality of hope and regret that runs through them, and an idea that we can imagine a better world.”  

So what, exactly, is a “fauxccasional” poem?

“Poets have always been inspired to write about significant occasions, whether it’s a birth, death, military victory or other important happening,” he says. “A fauxccasional poem expands on that idea by writing about purely fake or speculative occasions.”

While most of the poems hit on significant historical events a few touch on personal themes including one for a friend who committed suicide and one about countering depression through a writing adventure with UTSC students.

“The poems deal with elements of pain and humour, but I think they all have a message,” says Tysdal, who also penned a practical guide to writing poetry in 2014.

“There’s an overriding desire, and I think this is something shared by all humanity, to create a better world. In order to imagine a better world we sometimes need to take events and flip them around to offer a different perspective.”    

Tysdal, who recently went to film school in order to learn the craft, created a video project to accompany the book. It includes five videos introducing fauxccasional poetry and expands on the idea of speculative events and the alternative universes they create.

“I wanted to add an element of fun with the multimedia component not only for additional insight but because many of the poems deal with parody that I wanted to illustrate with video.” 

The book, which was published by Goose Lane, is also on the CBC Books list of hottest poetry collections for 2015.   

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