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Robert Sward was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 23 June 1933. He obtained an honours B.A. in English and American literature from the University of Illinois (Urbana) in 1956 and an M.A. in English and American literature from the University of Iowa (Iowa City) in 1958. His teaching experience prior to coming to U. Vic. included teaching English at Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut, from 1958-1959, and at Mitchell College, New London, in 1962, teaching in the writing program at Cornell University (Ithaca, New York), 1962-1964, serving as writer-in-residence as the Aspen Writers' Workshop, Summer 1967, and as poet-in-residence at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1967. In July 1969 Sward was appointed Visiting Lecturer and Poet-in-Residence at the University of Victoria Department of Creative Writing, and was later appointed assistant professor.
Sward's areas of academic interest have included creative writing, particularly poetry; 20th century British and American literature; and American poetry from Walt Whitman to the present. As a writer, his areas of interest include contemporary American poetry, Eastern philosophy and lyric poetry. His first collection of poems, Advertisements, was published by Odyssey Chapbook Publications in Chicago in 1958. Subsequent publications included Uncle Dog and Other Poems (Putnam, 1962), Kissing the Dancer and Other Poems (Cornell University Press, 1964), The Thousand-Year-Old Fiancée and Other Poems (Cornell University Press, 1965), and Horgbortom Stringbottom / I am Yours / You Are History (Swallow Press, Chicago, 1970). His novel, The Jurassic Shales was published by Coach House Press, Toronto, in 1975, and his Poems: New and Selected, 1957-1976 appeared in 1976. Sward has also published poems in numerous journals and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The Malahat Review, and PRISM International.
Sward won the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference Poetry Fellowship in 1958, a Fulbright Fellowship for study in England (1960-1961), a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry (1964-1965), and the D.H. Lawrence Fellowship, awarded by the University of New Mexico for residence and writing at the Lawrence Ranch in Taos, New Mexico (1966). Sward has also been a member of the League of Canadian Poets.
At the University of Victoria, Sward has served on the Creative Writing Committee and the Committee on Visiting Poets, the latter being chaired by Robin Skelton. As fellow teachers and poets, Sward and Skelton began collaborating on a collection of poems, "Callsigns and Hannah", but due to personal disagreements the collaboration was abandoned and Skelton eventually completed the work on his own; it was published as Callsigns in 1976.
Other collaborations included the novella, Soft, which Sward wrote with Judith Sward. He and Judith were also interested in art history, an interest he shared with Irina Schestakowich. Since living in Victoria Sward has spent some time on Lasqueti Island, off eastern Vancouver Island, with Irina and with other friends.
In 1970 Sward founded Soft Press, a Victoria company which published fine limited editions of poetry. As its editor, Sward helped publish 16 poetry collections between 1970 and 1976, including the anthology West Coast Visions, and How Love Gets Around, by Michael Wolfe.
Robert Youds (born 1954) is a Canadian artist based in Victoria, British Columbia. He holds an MFA from York University and a BFA from the University of Victoria.
Peggy Abkhazi (1902-1994) was born Marjorie Mabel Jane Carter in Shanghai, China, on December 12, 1902, the daughter of Mabel and William Carter. Her mother returned to England in 1906 with Peggy. Mabel died there that summer and Peggy’s father died shortly afterwards in China. Peggy lived for a time with relatives in England before being adopted by a well off couple, Thomas and Florence Pemberton, who had returned to England from Shanghai. She took the surname Pemberton.
Thomas Pemberton died in 1918. In 1920, Peggy and Florence Pemberton went to Shanghai where they lived intermittently until Florence‘s death in 1938. They returned to Europe in 1922, living in England and Paris then went back to Shanghai in 1923 and 1924, via Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. Between 1927 and 1938 they traveled between Shanghai and Europe. During that time, about 1930, Peggy was married for a short time in Shanghai, and subsequently divorced. Florence Pemberton died in China in 1938 leaving Peggy financially independent.
After her adoptive mother’s death, Peggy took the surname Pemberton-Carter. She continued to live in Shanghai. In 1940, she visited Shanghai friends, the Mackenzie, in Victoria, where they had retired, but returned to Shanghai. She was interned there by the Japanese from 1943 to 1945. This experience forms the basis of her book A Curious Cage, published in 1981. At the end of the war Muriel Mackenzie established contact with her and Peggy came to Victoria and in early 1946 bought property on Fairfield Road.