Todd Swift is one of the leading Canadian poets of his generation (those born since 1960), and his poetry was included in two recent major anthologies of Canadian verse, Open Field (Persea, 2005) and The New Canon (Vehicule, 2005). He is Oxfam GB Poet In Residence and editor of their best-selling poetry CD series, Life Lines and Life Lines 2. He is poetry editor for Nthposition online magazine. He lectures in creative writing and English at the graduate and undergraduate levels at Kingston University, and teaches at Birkbeck and The Poetry School, in London. He has edited many international anthologies, such as Short Fuse (Rattapallax, 2002) and 100 Poets Against The War (Salt, 2003). His own poetry has been published by DC Books in four collections, most recently Winter Tennis (2007). He is co-editor of the major new study of contemporary English Quebec poetry, Language Acts (Vehicule, 2007). His poems have appeared widely in such journals as Agenda, Cimarron Review, The Guardian, Jacket, London Magazine, The Manhattan Review, New American Writing, Poetry Review, and The Wolf. His reviews appear widely, in places such as Books in Canada, The Globe and Mail, and Poetry London. He is doing his PhD at the University of East Anglia, where he also took his MA in Creative Writing.
Badge me and badger me,
Catch me and calliper my skull,
Suck out the phonemes, sip
The allomorphs. Automata, loci,
Imprudent, implants… put me on
Compound parade and glue
My ablative: stick a synthetical vowel
Up the lexical layer with a trowel
But build that system with interplay.
The Unidentified Man
So I went down to the fence where the jobs were,
Put my face against the wire, and yowled Hire me
To the boss-men whose job it was to hire two men,
When around me stood maybe two hundred men;
My hands gripped the wire, framing my yowling,
Too clean by half. I wanted to have something to do,
You see, in your world. The gates parted for no one
I knew. All I did was have a small way with words,
Of no use to the high chimneys that smoked above us,
To hang on the old tree where language yellowed.
Two men came and lugged me low, inside the gate,
Dropped my body in with the slow horses for meat.
To sing fado
is to open the barn door
before the horses.
Singing fado is to set water
spinning so it tires the storm.
Fado means teaching fire
to climb itself in flame, a rope.
Fado throws the wind away,
kisses the stars farewell
in night’s lost stairwell.
To sing fado
is knowing love’s torn dress
sold to sailors to buy
back your heart’s secret share.
Fado is leaving
nothing on your nakedness.
Fado is touch singing to skin.
Map Of Love
You are not on my map of love, you said
And I the cartographer of all things lived,
The device so curled and aged it had faded.
Sweep away those pins and flags, heart,
And come here to divide these spoils
On this bed where we surround and fall,
Fighting our way out of poppy fields
Consensual as battle, squabbling over power
Or Nepal. The answer is we’re artists or lovers
Pursuing night’s cherries in a spring campaign.