Dwayne Morgan

In the mid-nineties, Dwayne Morgan first began to test his voice in a particularly dynamic milieu. “A guy by the name of Black Cat was running the spoken word scene in Toronto. I would go to his events and be there in the audience, and at the time I never even knew that I could write. In a night you could see Lillian Allen, Clifton Joseph. You could see a jazz band, young up-and-coming artists who were just getting their feet wet. It was all about performance and it was exciting, and people really gravitated to it and looked forward to it. When Black Cat stopped producing events, it was almost a passing of the baton, because that was the first one of his events that he actually put me in. And from there I started producing events.” Thus was his production company Up From The Roots born.
His hefty back-catalogue of CDs, books and chapbooks began with seed money from a sympathetic community organization. “I was doing a lot of performances in community centers, doing a lot of volunteer work, and one of the organizations offered me 500 dollars to produce a chapbook of my work. That was a loan. So I took the loan from them, I did that, I paid them back their money, and from there I saw how people were responding and how much it was selling. From there I started to produce on my own.”

From his first experience on stage, the audience has been key to Morgan’s evolution as a poet and spoken word artist. His projection of a different, empathetic model of the Black man with his first poem, ‘In Search of the True Brother’ drew an immediate response from his audiences, and encouraged him to begin his writing and performing career. He draws his material from what he sees in his community, on the streets and in the media. “People see me on stage, so they don’t realize I’m actually a very shy and introverted person. I’m constantly watching and observing everything that is around me, and that is where a lot of the poetry comes from.”

His popularity as a performer has led to gigs in the United States and more recently Europe. “I used to perform a lot in the States and then, after 9/11, it became such a hassle getting across the border that I focused more on European markets. In May 2010 I performed at a festival in Belgium. I have performed in England, Scotland, Germany, France, Budapest, Holland – pretty much all around. One the of things I learned on my first trip to Europe was that a lot of the things I was doing didn’t translate to the European audience. they didn’t have the same issues, they didn’t have the same references. So I began writing more human stories, as opposed to local stories. When I began writing human stories, things really took off. I could go to Budapest or Germany or Jamaica or the States or anywhere in Canada, and people would understand what I’m speaking about because they can connect to the human-ness of the actual poem.”

As part of his role as a producer of spoken word shows, Morgan has created two annual events: When Brothers Speak, and When Sisters Speak. “The two shows are the biggest shows of their kind in North America right now,  in terms of showcasing African-Canadian and Black artists from across North America, England, and Canada.” The latest edition of When Sisters Speak unfolded in January, for the first time in Ottawa. Morgan plans to launch a book, Her Favourite Tune and other Stories of Life and Love, this coming May. The second of a three part book series of his erotic poetry, Cunnilinguistics, is slated to appear in the fall.