Writer in Residence

Profile: Oni the Haitian Sensatian

By Dane Swan

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.

Oni the Haitian Sensation is a force to be reckoned with. She's an internationally recognized poet, film maker, vocalist, mom, technologist, life-coach, innovator, reality show star, healer, and the list goes on… Oni the Haitian Sensation is a fighter, and a writer, mentored by Dr. George Elliott Clarke. She hails from a long line of royal revolutionary poets, from the City of Poets, Home of the Three Musketeers. Oni the Haitian Sensation directed Canada's first Slam Poetry Festival, the Canadian Spoken Wordlympics (now CFSW), and is Canada's first Slam poetry academic. She is the first Canadian woman to tour Slam poetry in Europe. She is the first slam poet in the world to have a living monument dedicated to her. Her book Ghettostocracy (McGilligan Books, 2006) was a Book of the Year in the Globe and Mail. It is used to teach English and African- Canadian studies in Canadian universities. She was a nominated candidate in the Ottawa 2010 municipal elections. Oni the Haitian Sensation won the Chalmers Award to study Praise Poetry under Nelson Mandela's Poet Laureate, His Royal Heritage, Zolani Mikva. Oni the Haitian Sensation did her writing in the Great Madiba's home where he welcomed her and the Haitian flag with open arms. Since then, she's lost 180 lbs.

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

I don't know. I can only speak for myself. If you want a relationship with anything or anyone, try to make it happen.

2/Why self- publishing?

Why not?

3/What drives black/African-Canadian writers to ply their trade outside Canada?

I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. I consider myself an earthling, a global citizen, therefore... I try work all over the planet, it feels natural to travel the continents to recite my poetry and share and exchange my Black insight with the masses ; I love people, I’ve worked and performed for every demographic, in all kinds of venues. I fancy history, sex-ed, fashion, politics, boxing, poetry, food, nature, education, rum , comedy, culture, fauna, inspiration, cartoons, hope, etc…. Enjoying these things under one national anthem can get boring. I have a strong aversion for humdrum and ignorance.

4 /Why have so few black/African-Canadian poets who have been published by Canadian book publishers published more than one book with a Canadian publishing house?

I don’t know. I can only speak for myself. I wanted it to happen, getting published that is, so I made Ghettstocracy happen.

5/What does it mean to be a black/African Canadian writer in Canada?

It means that you will get my unique multilingually inked, cultural vantage point from all 9.98 million square kilometres in total , A Mari Usque Ad Mare, when my work is published in an analog or in a digital format, as I also identify as black/African Canadian writer, colonial hybrid, made in Canada. My voice is quite witty and unconventional and scarce in the media and in our curriculum. i tell it like it is, unapologetically, plus I do my best to share my experience with as many people as possible as no one can tell my story better than myself.

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.


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."