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Writing Nature

Although nature writing is an ancient literary form and practice, it has not always been “in style.” In the first half of the twentieth century, for example, the rejection of the Romantic movement saw nature writing both fall out of literary fashion and gradually recede into the background as an important form of public discourse.

However, since the emergence of the environmental movement in the 1960s, and through to the current era of dramatic climate change, writing about nature has taken on new urgency and given rise to the multidisciplinary field of “ecopoetics.” This course is in sync with growing public concern about the impact of human behavior on the natural environment and increasing recognition of the importance of nature to our physical and mental wellbeing. The course allows participants to experience the satisfactions of deepening their relationship with the natural environment through writing poetry and creative non-fiction.

Start Date: TBA
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Duration: 8 weeks
Location: TBA
Fee: $330.00* plus applicable taxes

*McGill students, staff, and alumni are eligible for a 20% discount.

Course Description

This course sits where nature and culture meet, where world and word intersect.  It aims to expand participants’ technical abilities in creative non-fiction and poetry as we address thematic questions raised by the course:  “Where can nature be found?”;  “Am I part of nature?”;  “How does technology shape our relation to nature?”;  “Why do I garden?” We will practice writing as a way of exploring the meaning of nature and our relationships to it.  The focus will be on honing our writerly skills and techniques as we deepen our understanding. 

Nature writing became unfashionable with the rejection of the Romantics early in the last century, but the rise of the environmental movement has brought with it new interest in ecopoetics and nature writing. This course concerns itself with the on-going development of these writing practices. Classes will consist of talks, discussions, in-class reading and writing exercises, and workshop sessions.  Each participant will have the opportunity to workshop at least one piece of non-fiction or group of poems, and participants will also be invited to take part in a field trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens, where we will take a tour and then work (weather permitting) on an open-air writing exercise. 


  • To explore and deepen our understanding of and relationships with nature through writing
  • To develop writerly skills in poetry and/or creative non-fiction
  • To develop the ability to give and receive criticism in a supportive environment
  • To become attentive to the role of nature in our lives
  • To explore how nature has been written about in the past
  • To learn about and contribute to writing nature in the present

Topics Covered


  • What is Wilderness?
  • Nature in the City
  • Nature as Home
  • Nature and Technology
  • The Garden


  • Field Notes:  the Art of Attention
  • Point of View and Personification
  • The Lyric Essay
  • The Poetic Line
  • Imagery and Figurative Language
  • Story-telling in Poetry and Prose
  • Combining Science and Style
  • What Can’t be Said:  the Limits of Words

Who Should Attend

Nature-lovers, environmentalists, gardeners, and outdoor enthusiasts with an interest in writing about their experiences and observations; anyone who wants to explore his or her relationship to nature by developing skills in poetry and/or creative non-fiction. Both novice and experienced writers are welcome.


Sue Sinclair is the author of four books of poetry, all of which have been nominated for national and/or regional awards including the Gerald Lampert Award, the Pat Lowther Award, the Atlantic Poetry Prize, and the Acorn-Plantos People’s Prize. Her third volume, The Drunken Lovely Bird, was also awarded the International Independent Publishers' Poetry Prize.

Sue's work has been widely anthologized in poetry collections, including The New Canon and 70 Canadian Poets, and she has given readings, conducted workshops, and lectured across Canada. She was recently writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick and will be one of the inaugural writers-in-residence at the Al Purdy A-Frame later this year. Sue also has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Toronto, where she studied Aesthetics and Environmental Ethics.

Cancellation Policy

All cancellation requests must be made in writing on-line: click here to cancel. Please note that you will be required to quote your registration reference number. 

If you cannot attend the course but wish to send someone in your place you must make a request for the substitution in writing to mwc [at] mcgill [dot] ca.

The following cancellation policy applies:

Up to 14 days prior to the start date: Full refund
Up to 7 days prior to the start date: Refund minus $100 cancellation fee
Within 7 days prior to the start date: No refund; however, the instructor may allow you to attend specific classes.

If no notice is given prior to the start of the course and you fail to attend, you will be liable for the full course fee.

The MWC reserves the right to cancel this course up to 5 days prior to the event.

Contact Information

Telephone: 514-398-7109
E-mail: mwc [at] mcgill [dot] ca