Title: Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method
Author: Daniel Scott Tysdal
Publisher: Coteau Books
Review by Maria Scala.
In reviewing Daniel Scott Tysdal’s Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method, many words come to mind, foremost of these are playful and innovative. Even before I read a single poem, the book’s slick red cover, the title emblazoned across the front in uppercase, its unusual trim size (8 1/2 x 11 ), and its page after page of carefully formatted text and images, promised not your average book of poetry.
And not your average editor—George Elliot Clarke—worked on the book with Tysdal. Clarke was on the jury that awarded Tysdal the John V. Hicks Manuscript prize from the Saskatchewan Writers Guild in 2004. After publication in 2006, Tysdal went on to win a Saskatchewan Book Award in the Poetry category. Jon Paul Fiorentino, who provided a blurb for the back cover, called Predicting “an exhilarating mix of pop culture, philosophy, mythology, and visual art.”
It’s this mix that makes the work so challenging, and so worthwhile for the dedicated reader. Many of the poems are technical gems. Most noteworthy among them are “Predicting the Next Big Advertising Breakthrough Using a Potentially Dangerous Method,” “An Experiment in Form,” “How We Know We Are Being Addressed by the Man Who Shot Himself Online,” and “Missing.”
The title piece is a collage of text presumably pulled from various print and online resources, and includes an excerpt on the left side of the page from President George W. Bush’s “Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People” (Sept. 2001), immediately followed and juxtaposed by a quotation from philosopher Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle. As a reader still growing accustomed to Tysdal’s sense of humour, I wondered if other material found in this poem was real or a fabrication. Does it really matter, anyway? By the time I reached the poem within the poem (on the right side of the page), I was finally convinced that I was hearing Tysdal himself, in the form of a brilliant reconstruction of the Debord and Bush excerpts:
… / our
nation is beyond the
earthbound efforts / that have
suffered loss grief and
separation / that had been
human and hence the great
and fallacious / threat to our
denial of the human / the
human itself / its life / once
wrenched from life / (no longer
of life) / will have but mists of
beings / fear and harm have
been thus found / by most /
we have the aspects of a
great /and rarefied people /
we lift our earth down at will /
most beings tire and falter / fail
/ we will not
Turn the page and you’ll find “An Experiment in Form,” a poem that seems to out-do the previous one. Consisting of “Author’s Notes” followed by “Reader’s Questions” and arrows linking the thoughts back and forth, it would be impossible to reproduce any of the text here for obvious reasons. Similarly, you have to read for yourself the sequence “How We Know We Are Being Addressed by the Man Who Shot Himself Online,” and “Missing.” In the former, Tysdal builds his poem around the eerie still images of a man who shot himself while in custody at a police station. In the latter, Tysdal employs a varied sequence of the same black and white photograph of himself as a child to complement a text about lost or run-away children. “Missing,” the book’s penultimate piece, is not only representative of the poet’s devotion to the experimental, but also his interest in emotionally-charged issues.
You’ll find this softer (but still clever) side of Tysdal in other poems such as “Pictures from Archie: Riverdale, at This Dreamy Hour,” “Cohen,” “What Prairie Poets Do and How They Watch the Sky,” and in the “For Imagination and Memory” sequence. “What Prairie Poets Do” is welcome to the reader seeking something more straightforward from the poet. In it, Tysdal addresses a stereotype that obviously hits a nerve with him:
What prairie poets do by accident
is leave the door of the old bus open,
leave the whole damn thing open to fill up
with spring’s buzzing flies – so that if you want
to get to your writing (even to poems
about killing flies) you’ll have to kill flies
first, one by one, truly coming to terms
with what the wise ones said about sending
the reds and blues of fly guts to fly graves (much
shallower than the hollow that will eventually
But Tysdal is a different kind of prairie poet, as shown here, in the following stanza:
At the end of her email she wonders
what prairie poets do and how they watch
the sky. And for the first time you admit
these sentences you tear in thin strips from
around the half-dead hearts of the creatures
the world coughs up – you admit them as poems.
At last you notice heaving skies surround you
asking what it means to have forgotten
falling bombs after witnessing their sleek
descent; to have misplaced centuries of upturned
eyes, even though these eyes had watched as though
looking up were a home away from one.
Later, in the final piece titled “A►◄ B,” Tysdal returns to his signature style. He invites the reader, after having read the poem, to fold over the last page of the book so that A meets B. There revealed is the last line of the poem:
So many of us revere our books, wouldn’t dare deface, or dog-ear the pages, but Tysdal is capable of making us do exactly that. In the same way, he gets us to rethink what constitutes a poetic text. Despite the feeling I had, here and there, that I had to work a little too hard at uncovering this text, sticking with it was certainly a rewarding endeavour.
Maria Scala is a freelance writer and editor living in Scarborough, Ontario. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in Descant, mamazine, Literary Mama, Pagina/12, Magizone, Between O and V, among others.