Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

dswan's blog

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.

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