Gary Barwin
UTSC’s new writer-in-residence is an artistic renaissance man with experience writing novels, poetry, pamphlets and multimedia art including visual poetry as well as composing music. (Submitted photo)
Thursday, January 16 - 2020
Don Campbell

Gary Barwin gets a real kick out of uncovering creativity wherever he goes.


Whether as a writer-in-residence at a large Canadian university or a local public library, or researching Jewish pirates during the Spanish Inquisition for a novel, exploring creativity has always been one of his great interests.


It’s a passion he looks forward to bringing as U of T Scarborough’s writer-in-residence for 2020.


“I’ve heard so many great things about the creative writing program here,” he says. “It encourages participation and really helps writers to explore what’s essential and authentic to their individual voice.”


He’s an artistic polymath in the true sense of the word, having authored 23 books during his career including novels, work for children and young adults, chapbooks, pamphlets and books of poetry. He’s also a multimedia artist working in visual poetry, and he’s composed music for computers, live performances and sound works, just to name a few.


“I’m still involved in many of these different things,” says Barwin, whose book Yiddish for Pirates won the 2017 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.


“I think that being creative is about exploring and taking risks – it doesn’t matter what medium you’re using. I’m always trying to discover new outlets for creativity.”


Barwin also brings considerable experience as a teacher and mentor, having spent time in writer-in-residence roles at the Toronto, London and Hamilton Public Libraries as well as McMaster, Laurier and Western University. He’s also taught creative writing at King’s University College (Western University), McMaster University and Mohawk College.


He says he’s constantly amazed by the creative energy he encounters in these roles, having seen “astounding poetry” written by mathematicians, or even discovering a collaborator for a writing project, which he did with fellow poet Tom Prime during his time at Western. 


He hopes to connect with as many aspiring writers and artists at U of T Scarborough throughout the semester, while also relishing the chance to work on his next project.


“This means that I’m going through the same kinds of experiences of exploring, struggling, finding inspiration and bewilderment that aspiring writers are going through,” he says.


“I think it’s useful to be practicing writing while being a mentor because it means you have to be humble, and hopefully the discussions will resonate even more.”


Started in 2013, UTSC’s Writer-in-Residence program brings students into contact with accomplished writers. The writers hold regular office hours, run in-class workshops and host a weekly creative writing group. Past writers-in-residence include Miriam Toews, Nino Ricci, Helen Humphreys, Zoe Whittall, Aisha Sasha John and Carrianne Leung.


To learn more about the program, contact Daniel Scott Tysdal at