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“The Green Freedom of a Cockatoo:” Introduction to the Art of Writing Poetry

“The green freedom of a cockatoo” is a line from Wallace Stevens, a poet known for his rich musical language and unfettered imagination. In this course, designed for “green” poets, we will seek to be as greenly free as Stevens’ cockatoo while developing our familiarity with a variety of writerly techniques. We will investigate aspects of sound, rhythm, figurative language, image, line breaks and form, and will also discuss the development of a writing practice. Participants will read poetry, complete in-class and at-home writing exercises, and will exchange thoughtful criticism of each other’s writing in a workshop format. We will proceed via a mixture of experimentation, discussion and revision. By the end of the course participants will have written and revised a small portfolio of poems, and will have the opportunity to take part in a group reading to celebrate the course’s end.

Start Date: TBA
End Date:  TBA
Duration: 8 weeks*
Day and Time: 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Location: TBA
Fee: $295.00 (plus applicable taxes)*

*McGill students, staff, and alumni:  20% discount

Click here to register.


  • Compose and revise 8-10 original poems
  • Learn the art of free-writing
  • Become familiar with poetic devices
  • Give and receive constructive feedback
  • Develop a critical sense of what makes a good poem
  • Develop familiarity with some traditional and contemporary forms
  • Learn strategies for beginning new work
  • Learn strategies for revision
  • Produce a 10-page poetry portfolio

Topics Covered

  • Tone, voice, point of view
  • Line, stanza, and section breaks
  • Sound, rhyme, and rhythm
  • Imagery and figurative language
  • Lyric, formal and experimental styles of poetry
  • Revision
  • Developing a writing practice

Who Should Attend

  • those interested in writing poems but who have never tried
  • early and as yet unpublished poets
  • emerging poets looking for a community workshop environment


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