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Seaway: New & Selected Poems

Todd Swift

ISBN: 978-1-903392-92-8

Page Count: 128

Publication Date: Saturday, November 01, 2008

Cover Artwork: Long Sault Dam 1957, Archives of Ontario. Design: Etienne Gilfillan


About this Book

"There is, in the Beat-influenced imagination of Swift's earliest poems, an exquisite timing and formal innovation that goes on to characterise his work so far. As intensely spiritual as it is erotic, this is writing of sometimes uncomfortable honesty, which never fails to tell us something about the strange business of being alive. The elegiac melancholy of Cafe Alibi and the free-wheeling imagistic felicity of Rue de Regard, meet in his latest work to form a poetry as poignant as it is celebratory, shot-through with eccentric details and rueful wit."

Luke Kennard


"I love the way Swift ranges from the heartbreakingly beautiful stories about his family to the witty experiments with form where any subject matter is up for scrutiny. Sincerity and comedy attuned to a subtle ear make Swift a top quality poet!"

Daljit Nagra


Todd Swift is one of the leading Canadian poets and poetry activists of his generation. The collection of essays about Anglo-Quebec poetry, Language Acts (which he co-edited with Jason Camlot), was a finalist for the 2007 Gabrielle Roy Prize. He has had four previous collections of poems published by DC Books in Montreal, Canada. He lives in London, England, with his wife, where he works as a lecturer in creative writing, editor, and writer.

Seaway: New & Selected Poems gathers together 80 poems and is the first full retrospective of a poetry career that spans over two decades.


Author Biography

Todd Swift was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, on Good Friday, 1966, and grew up in St-Lambert. He was one of Canada's top-ranked student debaters throughout high school and university. He graduated with a BA in English and Creative Writing from Concordia University. In the 1990s he helped develop spoken word in Canada, with his poetry cabarets. His CD-length experimental text-music collaboration with Tom Walsh, Swifty Lazarus: The Envelope, Please, was released by Wired On Words in 2002. A graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at UEA, he is core tutor with The Poetry School, and a lecturer in creative writing and English literature at Kingston University. His recent collection of critical essays about Anglo-Quebec poetry, Language Acts, co-edited with Jason Camlot, was a finalist for the 2007 Gabrielle Roy Prize. His poems have appeared in the major anthologies The New Canon and Open Field; and his poem "Gentlemen of Nerve" was selected to appear in The Best Canadian Poetry in English, 2008. He is the editor of many significant international poetry anthologies, including Poetry Nation, Short Fuse, and 100 Poets Against The War; and is the poetry editor of Nthposition. In 2005, he edited a special section on The Young Canadian Poets for New American Writing. He has had four full collections of poems published by DC Books in Montreal. As Oxfam Great Britain's first Poet-in-residence, 2004-2008, he ran the influential Oxfam Poetry Series, and edited the best-selling CDs, Life Lines and Life Lines 2--Poets for Oxfam. In 1997, Swift moved to Budapest, then to Paris in 2001. He now lives and works in London, England, with his Irish wife, Sara.


Sample Poems

This Was How One Lasted

I used to pretend I was a dolphin
when I swam in the lake.
I was a boy then, skin smooth
and untanned, because I read
all day on the lawn, my legs
covered by a blue towel, with a pine
tree marking my chair and book
in a high, clean shade, the light
tart needles of windblown air.
Twice in a day, only, would I
become upright, and go down
to the water, once before noon
and then again near evening.
I was thin and young, with shivers

and would wait for something
to call me in. Often I had no reason
to dive for an hour, staying there
watching the sunbathing girls
on the raft, turning slowly
along the chain that tied them
to the bottom, the gallon cans
filled with sand. Spiders, landed
like aliens on the moon of green
linoleum of that raft, made it their
ghastly headquarters, so I never
went there. Finally, I would walk in
until the line of my belly
was drawn in the lake, risen

over my startled penis, to join
the line, and descend.
I had no water eyes,
closed and forced a form
I was to plummet
straight free. This was
my extending moment-
all union and calm,
the sweep and underneath
of sensation, flight in the springs
that crossed my body,
heat and cold turned on
and off, like faucets, as I passed,
a fast and silent submarine.

Unborn, beyond exposed things,
saved in the water, I began with nothing
but hands and a lidded mind, and life
and thought through to the ocean
where I was elsewhere,
also, at the same time,
my bones a sweet bread, slid
into the mammalian sea, a knife.
I never came up on behalf of oxygen,
searched for pockets where
I stayed-my feeling was
this was how one lasted
after drowning and dead,
was better than above.

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