On March 28, poet and TWLOHA supporter Tyler Knott Gregson is releasing his third book titled “Wildly into the Dark.” He describes the work as “typewriter poems and the rattlings of a curious mind.” When you preorder the book, TarcherPerigee will donate $1 to TWLOHA.
We had the pleasure of getting a first look at Tyler’s upcoming collection of honest and insightful poems and asking the author a handful of telling questions about his personal connection to art and mental health, his advice for people on how to use art to heal, and the challenges he faced along the way.
Q: How would you encourage people to use language and art as an avenue to work toward and/or maintain recovery from mental illness and addiction?
A: Sometimes, all we have is the voice inside our own minds, sometimes it’s the last line of defense against sadness, sorrow, and the darkness we think is unavoidable. The most beautiful thing we can do with this voice, is to let it out, to let it sing. Writing, for me, has always been the way to quiet the noise in my own mind, the clutter, the millions of thoughts that feel uncontrollable; by listening to that voice and letting it find its way to paper, it filters through that, drowns out the extra noise, and lends a clarity we wouldn’t have otherwise found. I think art, the practice of it, and even the sharing of the art we create, is a fantastic way to both recover from, and maintain recovery from, mental illness and addiction. The more we can clear out the noise that holds us down, the more we can listen to and translate that inner voice of clarity, the better we’ll feel. Personally, writing has been a massively important tool into my mental health, it’s always been the pressure release valve I’ve needed, and it always will be.
Q: How has writing this collection of poetry aided and also challenged you from a mental health aspect?
A: This book, “Wildly into the Dark,” is by far and away the most intimate collection of my poetry and writing to date. Writing, and compiling, the poetry for this book was an extremely cathartic process, and truly helped me overcome a lot of different obstacles and mental hurdles that were in my way. The ability Penguin Random House granted me in having total control over the poetry included, allowed me to deal with issues that had been giving me anxiety, issues that were frustrating me and scaring me for the state of our planet, and issues that had been filling me with positive emotions as well…love, passion, familiarity, simplicity. The challenge came, however, with trying to filter down so much poetry to only 144 pages, an idea that made it difficult to know what “pieces” of myself were needing to be cut, needing to be ignored. Omission is a tough prospect sometimes, but a good one to practice.
Q: In the new book, you share a poem that speaks about remembering someone. It communicates the vast and varying moments in which our losses are remembered. In these moments, has allowing those memories to visit given the often accompanying grief more room to process?
A: There are a few poems in this new book that are directly about remembering someone who has gone. This loss can come in many different forms, from the passing through death, or the leaving by choice. I think it’s only by allowing this grief in, that we’re able to take control over our response to it. So much energy is spent trying to avoid sadness, trying to run from it, hide from it, transform it into something it isn’t, that we end up exhausted and afraid. I think allowing ourselves to feel the memories, feel the ache, is paramount into overcoming it and allowing it to transform naturally into peace, into calm and understanding. We cannot control that things in this life will make us terribly sad, but we can control our response to it, by allowing ourselves the grace to feel it, to process it, and eventually absorb it into who we are and use it to be a more compassionate and loving person. At least this is how I’ve always seen it.
Q: For people seeking a way to turn their personal art into a career, what advice would you offer them?
A: I am probably the worst person to ask this advice, as I’ve always existed on a very simple premise: If you want something, you go for it, all the way, no half measures. I decided years back, that I wanted a creative life, that I wanted to be my own boss, that I wanted to make art and not do the traditional 9-5. I knew this for myself, and so I forced myself to never make compromises, even when it hurt, even when I was living off of $125 a month of income struggling to find my way. I still don’t know if anything I do is worth anything at all, but I’ve carved out a niche for myself and it’s kept me afloat, even through hard times, and it’s because I found the thing I was passionate about, and I chased it. I found that ‘light’ and I ran straight for it, no matter how often I tripped, fell, and lost my way. I just kept going. Take your art, your passion, and give it the respect it deserves. Do not compromise on the life you wish for yourself, do not stop chasing your own light.
Q: In the prologue, you address the fact that you are a somewhat harsh critic of your art. What would you say to someone who finds themselves in a similar cycle of using creation as a positive release, only to ultimately criticize themselves and their work?
A: I think healthy criticism of your own work is extremely important. I think the ability to look at yourself, your work, honestly, and see room for improvement, room for growth, room for honest reflection is vital. The moment we think we’ve arrived, is the moment we realize we’re nowhere close; the moment we think we know everything is the moment we realize with startling clarity, that we truly know nothing at all. I am not angry or judgmental of my work, I just know it could always probably be better, be more, say more, mean more. We are works in progress, and to convince ourselves otherwise is a dangerous trap. The key, for me, with art and the creation of it, is to love it for the process, for the positive release, and not for the end result. I don’t take my work very seriously, because for me it’s the journey to its completion that matters, not how the work itself is received. Love the creation, not the dissection.
Excerpt from Tyler’s new book:
“It’s ok to find art in completely ordinary places. It’s ok to make it when you can’t find it. It’s ok to see the world in a way that makes you feel lucky to be in it. It’s ok to be in love with every single thing around you. It’s ok to wait. It’s ok to hurt. It’s ok to feel joy pulsing so fiercely through your body you can hear its heartbeat out loud. It’s ok to not be able to find patience to get out of bed each morning you are so excited to live. It’s ok to lie there and wish you never had to leave the sheets. There are no wrong answers here, no rules beyond this: Be kind to everyone and everything, and give yourself away. It’s ok.”
You can preorder “Wildly into the Dark” here.
And check out what Tyler’s actively creating and sharing on his Instagram.