Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Dane Swan

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Dane Swan is a Bermuda-raised, Toronto-based internationally published poet, writer and musician. His first collection, Bending the Continuum was launched by Guernica Editions in the Spring of 2011. The collection was a recommended mid-summer read by Open Book: Toronto. In 2013 Dane was short listed for the Monica Ladell Award (Scarborough Arts) for his poem "Stopwatch."

Send your questions and comments for Dane to writer@openbooktoronto.com

On Writing, with Dane Swan

Dane Swan is Open Book's February 2014 Writer in Residence. In his On Writing interview, he tells us about his latest book, Bending the Continuum, his next project and his ideal writing environment.

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Bending the Continuum.

Dane Swan:

A decade from now, when people want an easy entry into my writing, Bending will be the book recommended to them. It's a fun, safe work that delves into heavy subjects in a digestible way. There's no screaming, yelling or preaching (I hate when people preach there ideals to readers). Bending is a series of fun poems that can be taken at surface value, or, can be read for their social context.

Bending the Continuum

By Dane Swan

From the publisher's website:

The poems in Bending the Continuum are slave to no genre. Science-fiction, alternative realities, and time are fluid. Form, voice and space in this collection borrow from multiple canons. Dane's first book is equal parts Can-lit, Harlem Renaissance, the Caribbean oral tradition known as Griotism, Roddenberry, hip-hop and dark-humour.

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Read more about Bending the Continuum at the Guernica Editions website

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Multimedium publishing and the future of the literary press (Part 4 - Final)

Part 4: The corporate structure of the multimedium publisher

Even I find it fascinating that as most media driven industry begins the slow destruction of their vertical structure that the future of books is probably dependent on creating a more vertical one. Of course vertical corporate structure means that a business owns multiple levels of manufacturing. For example, the car company that owns the tire company. Businesses are getting out of this.

Multimedium publishing and the future of the literary press (Part 3)

Part 3: The past + The future = The present

If I may elaborate please. You've made it this far into my diatribe (Yay!). I promise that if what I'm saying does not make sense yet, it will soon. First, let's look at the past creative literature press.

Print as craft still exists. For instance, publishers using lithographic presses are around. Formats like poetry cards, and chapbooks still exist. In the more recent past we have the introduction of e-books, and audiobooks. We also have the introduction of online video book advertising. They generally suck, but they can grab the attention of someone scanning through press releases.

Multimedium publishing and the future of the literary press (Part 2)

Part 2: The death of the traditional press and the birth of the multimedium publisher

That's right, I'm coining a term to describe what I have been observing. Presses that have roots tied to micro publishing already fit some of the criteria for multimedium publishing. Book Thug, for instance, publishes books, and chapbooks. So have bigger presses with simple roots – Coach House has published poetry on cards, and chapbooks if you look far enough into their history. In fact, Coach House has an e-book imprint. That is in step with multiple small presses in the US.

Multimedium publishing and the future of the literary press (Part 1)

It's 5:30 AM and I haven't been able to sleep, so I've decided to begin posting my final series of the month. Personally, I blame my buddy Andrew -- a DJ and record producer based in Germany. Due to time difference online chats are in the middle of the night, and inevitably he shares footage from a tour -- this time last week in Russia. I hear his music (which is like coffee without the side effects) and I'm a buzz for the next 5 or 6 hours.

Answers to questions brought up in the Profiles that I conducted

As stated in the first profile that I wrote featuring Oni, my goal was to have a few questions about the place of Black/African-Canadian communities in the literary community answered. However, the answers that I received from Andrea and David actually led to more questions.

With David pointing out that the community(/ies) has little knowledge of how to get published, I reached out to Helen at Ontario Arts Council and she pointed me towards Diaspora Dialogues. I was pleasantly surprised when I received an email from Diaspora Dialogues explaining what they do. If I had more time I would have loved to have done a profile on these guys. I don't, but, I hope someone does take the time to properly promote what they do. Anyway, here's the email response that they sent.

"Hi Dane,

If one can argue against traditional non-academic literary schools, then one can reason against a purely academic model (Final)

Part 3: Writing as academic practice

Did I mention these are strictly my opinions?

First, I am not saying that English, or English Literature, or Creative Writing degrees are not legitimate degrees. (With Creative Writing majors who do not plan to become editors, or publishers, or educators you may want to get a double major in something like Marketing and start interning your first year.) These are all great degrees. Simply go to any job website and look at all the jobs that are available to people with English degrees. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying if your goal is to be a creative writer, study something else.

If one can argue against traditional non-academic literary schools, then one can reason against a purely academic model (Part2)

Part 2: writing as an isolating practice

I have a pen pal relationship with a writer from Connecticut. This exact subject has come up in our emails. In 2013, BBC had a series of audio documentaries that talked on the sins of being a writer and the need for a writer to balance between isolation and being a part of society came up. Of course my pen pal shared a link to it, while it was free. Sadly, BBC is infamous for forcing people to pay to download any of their media after it's been up for 2 weeks.

Here's what we concluded. Non collaborative creative writing is a singular act. This is not up for debate. What can a writers' group actually do? There are only so many questions to ask:

Are there too many fancy words?
Too many simple words?
Too many words?

If one can argue against traditional non-academic literary schools, then one can reason against a purely academic model (Part1)

Whoo! I'm exhausted writing that title. As stated in my first entry this month, all my posts are my opinion and are not necessarily shared by any members or staff of Open Book Toronto. Before we start, let me tell you a story about a fictional relationship:

Person A was a person of colour who was a talented writer and editor, but, because of their race, and stereotyping, very few people realized how talented they were.

Person B, a person of majority who was a more established writer, discovered A's talent and began a relationship with them.

Profile: David Delisca & Andrea Thompson

David O. Delisca (delisca.com)

Poet. Brother. Child of the Haitian Diaspora. Speaker. Stirrer of smiles and thoughts. Author of "I Grew Up Right Beside You". 4-time member of the Toronto Poetry Slam team (2013 National Champions)

1.) Why do so few black/African-Canadian writers have relationships with Canadian book publishers?

"In my opinion, I don't think there is an enlightened awareness of publishing in Black/African-Canadian communities and writers. I don't personally know the parameters and the means of getting my work published."

2.) Why self-publishing?

Creative Writing As Martial Art? Part 2 (Final)

Step one is acknowledging that writing is a martial art. Words have power. To this day, in many countries the first people executed in times of war are poets. In the West this may be lost, but we have the power to move masses. Creative literature can be used in defence – a rebuttal to false allegations. We all know the writing of Hurricane Carter. Writing can attack. There's apparently a well known book of Canadian literature in which a betrayed poetess outlines the real life betrayal of her poet partner. Slow literature, which may be brief, meanders within the details of the journey. It's all there.

Creative Writing As Martial Art? Part 1

I have always tried to define the ethos that guides my writing. Until recently, the closest I could come to a complete answer was the idea of writing as craft. I was taking literature out of the world of art and placing it beside basket weaving. There is a skill and beauty to craft, but more importantly, it is treated as a passed down practice. In reality, many writers write like this. Their writing is merely the passed on ideas of other writers, who thoughtlessly regurgitate the methodology taught to them. But that does not cleanly fit what I do as a writer.

Writer's block does not exist (Part 4 Final)

Step four: Editing and final draft

Do you know the difference between a creative writer and a hobbyist? Editing. Can you handle criticism? Can you give good criticism? Can you critique your own work?

So let's list common issues with poems:

Too many fancy words?
Too many simple words?
Too many words?
Paragraph/verses in the wrong order?
Does the poem's structure lack rationale?
Are those misspellings intentional?
Words being used incorrectly?
Check spaces between words.
Do line breaks work?
Is repetition of a particular word intentional?
Do the answers for all the above match the chosen genre of writing?

Now that we have a list, let's begin to hack away!

Have you EVER rolled
down YOUR windows to smell
the aroma of AN organic
orange
plantations

Writer's block does not exist (Part 3)

Step three: writing your drafts

First draft (punctuation optional).

"Have you ever rolled down your windows to smell the aroma of an organic orange plantation on a summer night? Dreaming the ecstasy of citric acid delight rolling down your throat as samba rhytms pulsate to you soul. Spit seeds in muddy favelas; hoping they mature. Waiting for orchards to grow."

That's my poem. For the record, the next step is not to go to a writer's group and ask for help ( We'll discuss writers' groups in another section).

Questions I now ask: What is the rhythm of my poem and does a particular line structure encourage it? Are punctuations necessary? Is formal, colloquial, patois or any other dialect appropriate for this work? Should I correct my misspellings?

My answers? Second draft:

Writer's block does not exist (Part 2)

Step two: Research

The internet is awesome. How many arguments have I won simply by using a Google search? Seriously, use the internet properly! Apparently this is a lost art. If you are a more serious writer, or you are writing an extensive work that benefits from multiple opinions and discovering said opinions on the internet would involve hours of clicking next page, go to a library. Library's are still awesome. They still have librarians who can give you tips (even if the tip is a web address you've never heard of). If your local library is small and you have a university or college nearby go there. You don't need a student card to write notes – go early enough in the day so that you have the time to write detailed notes, including any quotes that you wish to pull.

Writer's block does not exist (Part 1)

Or it does. But for the sake of this blog it does not. What is writer's block? I don't know, because it does not exist. Here's the thing, whether you are a professional creative writer, a skilled hobbyist, or a kid stuck with too much homework; with the right tools you should always have the ability to write something – or plan what you are going to write.

How? Here are some tools (with a story, because I feel like telling a story).

Profile: Oni the Haitian Sensatian

With questions about the current place of the African-Canadian/Black writer, I reached out to a number of poets in the community for their expertise. The first -- Oni the Haitian Sensation.

In Defense of Slam Poetry Part 3 (Final)

“Most slam poets suck. The only slam poet I like is Wakefield Brewster”

Well to be honest, most poets suck. If genres of art are to be judged by the the average artist of a genre, rather than their luminaries -- then art does not exist. More importantly, poetry does not exist. For the record, Wakefield IS AWESOME! Toronto is upset that you left us for Calgary! Come back!

In Defense of Slam Poetry Part 2

"Most slam poets are failed rappers."

If slam is a genre of poetry (or an amalgamation of genres) then this supposes two things:
1/ Rap is not a genre of poetry (Hence, success in said non-genre is not transferable into any actual genre, or amalgamation of.)
2/ A bad rapper could be a good slam poet

Let's squash number one quickly. Versions of what would become rap began popping up in the Beatnik era. Not only that, Beat luminaries like Ginsberg were influenced and influencing the amalgamation of black music and poetry. Heck, Ginsberg married Charlie Mingus to his 5th wife! Mingus was at the forefront of this marriage. A great example being his poem/song “Freedom.” Or, his collaborations with Langston Hughes.

In Defense of Slam Poetry Part 1

Some time in the 1980s a Conservative construction worker from Chicago founded a modern genre of poetry. Technically, Slam is not a genre, but rather, a platform for under represented, populace driven spoken word genres of poetry to be showcased. Mark Smith (So What!) produces a weekly show (every Sunday) at one of Al Capone's old stomping grounds – The Green Mill in Chicago. If you get the chance to speak to Mark (it's actually really easy to) he'll tell you that the original slams had ringers. The goal of the event was to entertain and expose a non literary mass to great talent. If you go to the Green Mill on any Sunday, you'll discover a world with a tough crowd that will jeer you for writing a poem with basic rhyme schemes. They'll do worse if your poem is sexist.

Introducing myself

Greetings,

Before we start this month long journey together, I would like to thank Open Book Toronto for providing this platform. Some of the things that I will say this month will be a tad controversial and it is important that even though Open Book has given me this platform, these opinions are strictly mine, and mine alone.

Secondly, It is only fair that while I am Writer in Residence that I give people the opportunity to get my opinion/assistance on their writing. So that I can get to everyone please keep submissions to a page. I prefer old fashion .doc files, or copy and paste what you have into the body of your email, and have “Writer in Residence” somewhere in the title of your email.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.