Ontario Author Profile: Puneet Dutt

NOW Digital Residency: Ontario's Best Books


As part of this month’s Ontario’s Best Books Digital Residency, we’re profiling some of this province’s prominent authors. See all of the profiles here.


What’s your most recent work about?

The Better Monsters is about the cultural complexities of politics, violence and war in the new century. It highlights the lingering effects of racism, the ideas of borders, belonging and the concept of home, told from the perspective of multiple identities.

Do you have anything specific you do for your writing process?

I am constantly scanning a variety of media and resources with a critical eye, such as publicly available documents, videos and theory. I am inspired to look at stories and events from different angles, to connect dots or provide my own interpretation. The initial first draft is always handwritten on stone paper using black ink. My books need to be on hand for reference and an online dictionary/thesaurus. I typically make the first edits right away, and then let the work sit and breathe. Then I return to it, type it and discuss it with an editor, often a friend, who provides feedback from a reader’s perspective. I let it sit again, make changes, read it out loud, share it again. Usually the work goes through several drafts before it’s polished and ready. In this way, if enough poems are gathered, then I will start to formulate ideas for a manuscript.

Describe one opportunity that improved your life as a writer.

My friend Kristen Smith started a writing collective, and through it we engage with new poets that we haven’t read before, write and workshop poems together. It’s fun, it’s social and it’s made my writing life less isolated.

What’s one thing Ontario creative industries could do to be more inclusive of authors from indigenous and diverse communities.

Provide more spaces and opportunities for BIPOC residencies, contests and fellowships. Additionally, mentorships would be fantastic.

What’s one piece of advice you wish someone had shared with you when you were first starting out as a writer?

That it’s okay to take your time and let the words brew, let the experiences gather. Louise DeSalvo’s book The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity has been a great resource. It encourages writers to use the slow writing process.

Do you have any favourite Ontario authors or books?

Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman is classic and haunting. For poetry, anything by Anne Michaels, Michael Ondaatje’s The Cinnamon Peeler and Soraya Peerbaye’s Tell: Poems for a Girlhood.

Name a person in your field who you think deserves more attention.

I’d like to highlight an organization, the Toronto Writers Collective, which works to encourage voice and illuminate undiscovered strength in Toronto’s most vulnerable communities. Most recently, they’ve published an anthology entitled Front Lines: Voices From the Toronto Writers Collective. In it are poets and writers that attend the workshops and have been published for the first time. I worked as an editor on the anthology and the pieces in it are incredibly moving. And as a volunteer facilitator, I want more people to know about this non-profit and the amazing work that they do. 


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