Millikin University Haiku Writer Profile

George Swede

George Swede

  Young widow
Asks for another
fortune cookie
by George Swede

Biographical Background

George Swede was born in Riga, Latvia on November 20, 1940. He moved to Canada and has been there since 1947. George Swede has had quite a bit of education in all of his years. He put himself through school by working many various jobs that included salesclerk, bartender, laborer, and even a blaster’s assistant.

George Swede the scholar...

In 1964 he received his B.A. in Honors Psychology from U.B.C. He spent four months as a psychology intern at the B.C. Penitentiary, a vivid experience which stems from his interest in the Justice Studies Program.  He received his M.A. from Dalhousie University in 1965. After experimenting with working as a school psychologist for one year, George Swede found his true passion for teaching. Ryerson Polytechnic University was where he would make his mark.

For twenty years now, George Swede has served as a respected member of the Psychology Department at Ryerson. He has developed a course on the psychology of art and creativity that eventually resulted in the publication of Creativity; A New Psychology (published by Wall & Emerson in 1993). He presents alternative views to traditional ideas and brings together significant articles by some of the foremost researchers into the science of aesthetics. His work has appeared in many psychology periodicals, such as, Canadian Journal of Psychology and the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, just to name a few.

In 1996, George Swede obtained his Ph.D. in Creative writing from Australia's Greenwich University.

George Swede the poet...

George Swede is also an acclaimed poet. In 1968 he published his first poem. Little did he know that it was the start of an acclaimed career. His works have appeared in over 125 different literary periodicals around the world. His works can be found in over 35 collections with publishers as well as over 90 anthologies.

When not reading George Swede's poetry, you could look over any one of his five children's novels or three picture books, or find him giving any one of his 2,000 readings or workshops.

This profile of haiku writer, George Swede, was researched, written and created by Amanda Hill and Kara Bohannan.

See Amanda Hill's interview-essay
on George Swede.

Scroll through the entire profile, or jump to any section:

Author Awards

George Swede’s work has won him over 70 awards and grants. He has also spoken in hundreds of classes, libraries, schools, and universities around the world including Great Britian, Japan, the United States, and Canada. Some of his awards are listed below for innumerable works including his fiction, non-fiction, and poetry of all kinds.

1997—Haiku Society of America Henderson Haiku Contest (third prize)

1997—Japan Foundation Grant

1993—First prize for free style Mainichi Daily News Haiku in English contest

1984, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1992--"Our Choice" award for 5 books of poetry for children

1984, 1985, 1987, 1991, 1992—Canadian Children’s Book Centre

1983, 1985, 1992—Museum of Literature Award

To access a more detailed listing of various awards and publications, please take a moment to browse George Swede's personal web page, complete with his own poetry, as well as reviews and additional links.

George Swede the editor...

Few can dispute the fact that George Swede has created a reputation of diligence and beautiful work. His teaching has affected the lives of many over the last twenty years, and well as his haiku has touched many readers lives. However, it should not be overlooked that George Swede has also become renowned as an esteemed editor.  He has been responsible for several important collections such as:

Editor. Canadian Haiku Anthology (Three Trees Press: Toronto, Ontario, 1979).

Editor. The Modern English Haiku (Columbine Editions: Toronto, Ontario, 1981).

Editor. Cicada Voices: Selected Haiku of Eric Amann (High/Coo Press: Battle Ground, Indiana, 1983).

Most recently, George Swede has collaborated with associate editor Randy Brooks to create, Global Haiku: 25 Outstanding Poets (Iron Press: Northumberland, England).

Author's Books

George Swede does not focus completely on haiku alone. He also has many works of fiction, non-fiction and other forms of poetry. He has published in over 125 different periodicals all over the world.

Some of haiku books include:

All of Her Shadows. Battle Ground, IN: High/Coo Press, 1982.

Almost Unseen: Selected Haiku of George Swede. Decatur, IL: Brooks Books, 2000.

Endless Jigsaw. Toronto, Ontario: Three Trees Press, 1978.

Eye to Eye With a Frog. La Crosse, WI: Juniper Press, 1981.

Flaking Paint. Toronto, Ontario: Underwhich Editions, 1983.

Frozen Breaths. Glen Burnie, MD: Wind Chimes, 1983.

High Wire Spider: Poems for Children. Toronto, Ontario: Three Trees Press, 1986.

I Eat a Rose Petal. Haiku Canada Sheet, 1987. Broadside.

Leaving My Loneliness. Claire Pointe, Quebec: King’s Road Press, 1992.

My Shadow Doing Something. Enfield, CT: Tiny Poems Press, 1997.

A Snowman, Headless. Fredericton, N.B.: Fiddlehead Poetry Books, 1979.

This Morning’s Mockingbird. Battle Ground, IN: High/Coo Press, 1980.

Tick Bird: Poems for Children. Toronto, Ontario: Three Trees Press, 1983.

Time is Flies: Poems for Children. Toronto, Ontario: Three Trees Press, 1984.

Wingbeats. La Crosse, WI: Juniper Press, 1979.

Swede's Guidelines for haiku:

In his introductions, Swede made it abundantly clear what he thinks constitutes a good haiku. In the Global Haiku intro, he outlines eight commonly used haiku guidelines, then eliminates a few to come up with his five ultimate rules of good haiku.

1. haiku must be brief: one breath long

2. haiku must express sense of awe or insight

3. haiku must involve some aspect of nature other than human nature

4. haiku must possess sense images, not generalizations

5. haiku must present an event as happening presently, not past or future

As long as the haiku gives the reader short yet sensual images, a haiku can be effective.

Reader Response E-mail Interview Notes

I had a chance to interview George Swede via email, and learned that not only is his work interesting, but he is a very interesting man as well. I asked him if he had a favorite haiku from his collections. He stated that he tried to never llok back, bu t only forward. Always looking for new inspirations and taking note of feelings that are presently felt, George Swede rarely has time to consider the massive amounts of poetry and especially haiku that he has composed. He does however admit that on occasion he recalls a certain haiku, but they are however, a poetic memory.

I thought that one of the most interesting points that I discussed with Mr. Swede was that of forcing ideas. I asked him if every haiku that he composed was from inspiration or if, on the occasion that he forced an idea from a given stimulus. He shared that most of his haiku arise from a "state of rediness for poetic composition". He went on to further explain that this readiness was a result of years of composition and experiences. He also tells that on the occasion, he has set down with a pencil and a blank piece of paper to write even when he did not "feel" like writing, though he goes on that the mood to write will soon take over. He continued by explaining that the readiness to write does not always arrive at the most opportune times (when one is alone just writing). It can overtake while walking down a street, driving, every day rountines, etc. He finishes this fascinating conversation by advising that, "one should always have writing materials in one’s possession."

From conversing with Mr. Swede as well as reading some of his works, I feel that I have a greater sense of my own writings and a higher level of awareness of what I am writing and the universal themes that can be found within.

—Mandi Hill


Additional Web Links and Resources

Take a few moments to browse through these links to find out more about George Swede's work, as well as other exciting haiku web sites:

George Swede's A History of Haiku in English

Haiku Canada Profile on George Swede

Haijinx magazine feature on Swede's Haiku With Humor

George Swede's Home Page: swede's webpage

Brooks Books on Swede:

Ryerson Polytechnic University Home page:

E-mail George Swede at:



haiku conferences haiku courses at Millikin Modern Haiku magazine
speakers & readings haiku competitions at MU student renga
student haiku projects published haiku by students links to haiku web sites
student research on haiku haiku by Millikin students directory of haiku magazines


2001, Dr. Randy Brooks• Millikin University
last updated 8/16/01 • about this web site