Poet and photographer Tyler Knott Gregson has spent the last few years sharing his daily poems and haiku, primarily online. His work has caught the attention of thousands worldwide, including the folks at Perigee Books, a division of Penguin. This September, Tyler will release his first book, a collection of poems called Chasers of the Light. For every copy presold, Tyler will donate $2 to TWLOHA. Because he has a way with words, we wanted to give Tyler the opportunity to share more about himself, what you can expect from the book, and why giving back to TWLOHA is so important to him.
Your Twitter bio says you’re an artist, poet, photographer, Buddhist, and author. What else should we know about you?
Hmmm, I suppose that I grew up all over the place, as my Dad was in professional baseball. I love seeing the world and the crazy and beautiful range that exists in it. I love to surf and play soccer and music, and I’ve been struck by lightning and almost eaten by killer whales. I don’t know; I’m kind of an open book for those who want to read it.
You’ve just announced that you’re going to donate $2 from every copy of Chasers of the Light sold between now and September 2 to our organization. Why TWLOHA?
I actually had to answer this exact question on my pre-sale announcement page, and I am so happy to answer it again. To Write Love on Her Arms, to me, is a charity that is all about hope. The number one message I have always tried to send through my poetry, photography, and non-profit involvement is that there is always hope to be found. The most surprising and humbling ripple effect from my writing has been the sheer number of people who have reached out personally thanking me for inspiring them and giving them hope when they thought there was none left to be found. For me, this is precisely what TWLOHA stands for and always has. Too many people are suffering from depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts, and the more help we can give, the better. The ability to partner with you, to help spread your message in such a positive and relevant way, is monumentally important to me. I have Hope tattooed on my left forearm for the things I have endured; it is the way I’ve written “love” on my arm, and I’m happy to play a role, however small, in helping spread that movement to others in need.
Your poems celebrate “the beauty of a life spent chasing the light.” What does that mean for you in your life?
I think one of the most important and beautiful ways to make your life about much more than “Simply surviving it” as I wrote in one of my poems, is to find your light and to spend your life chasing it. Everyone has a light, and that light is the horizon you should point at and keep walking towards. Whether it’s writing, music, sports, drama, education, helping others, art, or even another person that is light to you, chase it, and never ever be ashamed of how far you run to do so. I think reaching for something is key to happiness, and for me, in my life, there are a number of ‘lights’ that keep me reaching every day.
Your book will feature poems from your Typewriter Series. For our readers who aren’t familiar with your work, can you explain how you first started writing these types of poems?
Absolutely. I have been writing poetry as long as I can remember, everything from actual Shakespearian sonnets, to haiku, to long poems and short. A few years back, I stumbled upon an old Remington Rand Seventeen typewriter that dated back to the 1930’s, and with a found piece of paper, I typed out my first poem on it. There was just enough ink left on the ribbon to get it out, and I was immediately hooked. I loved the way I couldn’t edit, revise, or move lines around. I loved the immediacy of it and how tangible the letters became once they were pressed into the paper. It felt real, and I could smell it and hear it and touch it and I fell in love. For me, it was much more about getting out things that were inside me and so much less about having things sound perfect. I’m rounding the corner on 1000 Typewriter Series poems right now, and I’m so excited that there are a ton of new poems that aren’t part of my Series that are in the book. All new things for all new people to read.
You’ve written almost 1,000 poems over the last three years. Do you find yourself repeating certain themes? If so, which ones seem to come up again and again?
This, again, is exactly why I wished to pair with you guys. I think the two most resounding and reoccurring themes that keep popping up are Love and Hope. I think I write more about these two than anything else, and I don’t think I see that changing. Other themes scatter their way into the Series – some light-hearted and others heavy – but Love and Hope keep coming back to the surface. I think Love is the driving force on the planet, and I think Hope is the fuel that keeps it moving forward. Times will get dark – they always do – but I believe there is always hope, as long as there is love behind it all. I know it sounds cliché, and I know a lot of other writers probably turn their noses up at me for circling in on these themes with such frequency, but they say to write what you know, and really, that is exactly what I know.
Your posting schedule is pretty impressive. What’s your process like when starting a new poem? Do you feel the pressure to create every day?
To be quite honest, and I feel guilty every time I answer this, for me, writing has always been an absolute necessity rather than a chore or a job. I have so many words in my head that it becomes more of a race to get them all out, in some semblance of order, rather than a battle against writer’s block. Whatever the opposite of a writer’s block is, I always have. Writing, for me, is more like the plug in the hole in the dam wall; it keeps back the spilling when I need it to, and it lets it out when the water rises too high. Poems just kind of rush out, all at once, and when it’s done it’s done, and I tend to not revisit it. With minor exceptions, I don’t think I’ve ever revised a poem once I’ve typed it, or thought it up, because it felt like betraying the exact emotion of the time that led to me writing it. They are all snapshots of moments for me, exactly how I felt at a given time.
You’ve built a passionate community of followers online over the past few years. Has that community impacted your work?
One hundred percent yes, but I wouldn’t say in the words I write or the themes I tend to revisit. The community has inspired me greatly. The letters and emails and messages I’ve gotten from people who wanted to give up and kept fighting, the people who’ve promised me to stop self-harming, the people who faced their fears – all because of inspiration they found in MY writing – is wild to me.
Most of your poems are fairly short. How do you capture big moments or feelings in such a small space?
They are, and it’s something I’ve always tried to do in both writing and my photography. I’ve always thought that my goal with art is to make big moments feel very small and to make the tiniest moments feel massive and revolutionary. Whether it’s trying to condense something like love down into a single brush of a single hand on a single piece of someone’s skin or trying to make the simple act of someone rolling over in bed feel like it holds the secrets to the universe, I love the challenge of minimizing or maximizing things. I think I just try to see everything as the sum of its parts and treat each part as though it’s vital.
What’s one question we didn’t ask that you want to answer?
I am so honored and flattered and humbled that I’m even able to work with you guys; I am shocked I am being asked questions at all. I appreciate all this so much more than you know. Thank you, so much.