His poems have been recorded in the British Poetry Archive. He has curated a section of Tupelo Press' anthology of world anglophone poetry, sponsored by The Poetry Foundation in Chicago. He is included in the Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry In English (2013). He has had ten full poetry collections and over twelve pamphlets of his poetry published; and has edited or co-edited numerous international anthologies.
Director of Eyewear Publishing and Black Spring Press (founded in 1985), he is the publisher of such greats as Pete Shelley, Orson Welles, Carolyn Cassady and Jan Owen. He holds a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of East Anglia. His wok was chosen for THE BEST BRITISH POETRY 2014 anthology from Salt (Mark Ford was editor).
He grew up in St-Lambert, where he attended Chambly County High School. His father, Thomas Edward Swift (d.2006), was a rock and roll recording artist, then Director of Admissions for Sir George Williams, later Concordia University. He has one brother, Jordan, bassist with Canadian ska-band The Kingpins, and a teacher. His grandfather, Ian Hume (d.2006) was one of Canada's best known athletics figures and was Head Official for the Montreal Olympics Track & Field events, in 1976. He is related to Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, the last man to be beheaded in the Tower of London, in 1747.
Swift is one of the most successful Canadian college debaters of all time. He was a champion debater in high school, at Marianopolis CEGEP and then Concordia University, where we was elected President of CUSID, the national body of student intercollegiate debating, and where he designed the judging ballot used nationally. He won the Top Speaker prize two years in a row at the prestigious McGill Winter Carnival Debating Tournament, and won Top Team at Toronto's Hart House tournament, with Gordan H. Buchan. He was Second Place Speaker at the Canadian Nationals, and placed 9th at the McGill Worlds with team-mate James Champagne. He also debated with Gerald Butts, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada.
In 1987, while on a debating tour, Swift visited Belfast to research his first anthology, Map-Maker's Colours: New Poets of Northern Ireland (1988), co-edited with Martin Mooney. In 1988 he founded the New McGill Reading Series with poet William Furey. In 1990 he joined The League of Canadian Poets, and was twice elected its Quebec representative.
His poetry series Vox Hunt ran from 1995-1997, and was called "Brechtian. Virtually unique in North America" by The Globe and Mail. In his twenties, Swift was a successful professional screenwriter (WGC member). He has written over 100 hours of TV for Hanna-Barbera, Cinar, HBO, Fox, CBC and Paramount, among others, often with Thor Bishopric or Stanley Whyte. He was a story editor for Sailor Moon. He received a Young Quebecer of the Year award (Arts and Education category) in 1997 in recognition of his achievements. He was shortlisted more than half a dozen times for the Irving Layton Poetry Prize. In 1997, Swift moved to Budapest. In Hungary he was Visiting Lecturer at Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest), 1998-2001. In 2001 he moved to Paris. In 2003, he moved to London, England.
Swift's poetry has been collected in the full collections: Budavox (1999), Café Alibi (2002), Rue du Regard (2004), Winter Tennis (2007), Seaway: New and Selected Poems (2008), Mainstream Love Hotel (2009), England Is Mine (2011), and many pamphlets and e-books, such as The Cone of Silence, End of the Century, French Maid, American Standard and Elegy for Anthony Perkins. His most personal collection, published in 2012 by Tightrope Books, Toronto, When all my disappointments came at once, is concerned with male infertility. His Selected Poems came out with Marick Press, USA, 2014. Swift's poetry ranges across a variety of themes and styles. His goal has been to combine the confessionalism of the Alvarez era with the modernist panache of the Forties poets he admires such as Nicholas Moore, FT Prince, and Joan Murray.
His poems have been published internationally, in places such as: The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, Jacket, Poetry, Poetry Review, Prism International, and Stand. The Chronicle of Higher Education compared his work to "that of Ezra Pound's in the 10s and 20s of the last century, in Paris and London". Swift's poetry has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBC, and RTE radio (The Enchanted Way and The Poetry Program). In 2002 he released a CD on the Wired On Words label, with composer Tom Walsh, titled The Envelope, Please.
In 2003, Swift edited the chapbook series (In English, French, German and Brazilian versions) 100 Poets Against The War. He was one of the special guest poets at the Frankfurt Book Fair's International Poetry Evening in 2003. Swift was poetry editor of award-winning online magazine Nthposition from 2003 to 2008, and a contributing editor of Matrix, Quebec's longest running English-language literary magazine.
Swift's poetry has appeared in many anthologies, including Open Field: 30 Contemporary Canadian Poets (Persea Books, New York, 2005), The New Canon: An Anthology of Canadian Poetry (Véhicule, Montreal, 2005), as well as twice in The Best Canadian Poetry in English (Tightrope, 2008 & 2012). He was Oxfam Great Britain's Poet-in-residence in 2004, and has since edited several poetry CDs and a DVD for them. He ran the Oxfam Poetry Series from 2004-2011.
He has reviewed for Books In Canada, The Dubliner, The Globe and Mail, LRC, Magma, Poetry London, Poetry, and Poetry Review. He was a tutor with the Poetry School for many years; and many of his former tutees are now major UK poets. Other publications include Language Acts (a collection of essays on Anglo-Quebec Poetry 1976-2006), co-edited with Jason Camlot and Modern Canadian Poetry: An Anthology (co-edited with Evan Jones), from 2010. He lives in London, England. He has many nieces and nephews, and one godson, Alex, who lives in Canada.
On April 3, 2013, he became a British citizen, in a ceremony at Westminster Town Hall; he continues to also retain Canadian citizenship. He was Poet-in-residence for Pembroke College, Cambridge, for the year 2017-2018. He was one of three poets nominated for the Oxford Professor of Poetry ballot in 2019.