This workshop will focus on starting a poem, unravelling the enigmatic question of how to even begin.

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Saturday, Sep 23, 12-3pm
Open to all
Limited to 12 participants
Hybrid Workshop*

“The first line of a poem is a gateway to emotions,” said Pablo Neruda. “It is the poet’s invitation to the reader to embark on an emotional journey.” This workshop will focus on starting a poem, unravelling the enigmatic question of how to even begin. I would like to extend a warm invitation to aspiring writers and poetry enthusiasts to explore the art of crafting impactful beginnings. We will delve into a myriad of first-line techniques, such as détourned imagery, evocative language, and compelling narrative situations, to help design and finesse your poetic gateway. Through interactive exercises, group discussions, and constructive feedback, participants will gain new tools to capture readers’ attention from the first word, setting the tone for the poem that follows. We will also venture into the daunting task of conceptualizing a poem before its inscription, using a variety of collaborative prompts to embark upon the vital and challenging first step together. The first step—like the first word—is the most difficult and important step on a journey. Participants are invited to bring in examples of favourite first lines. Let us go then, you and I.

*This workshop will take place at the QWF Office (Room 3, 1200 Atwater Avenue, Westmount, Quebec) with up to 2 virtual spots for participants who are unable to attend in-person. By default, all workshop registrations are for in-person spots. If you would like to attend the workshop via Zoom, first email Riley ( to see if online spots are still available for this workshop, and then wait for confirmation. Virtual spots are limited and are reserved for people who either live outside Montreal or have a medical condition.

Workshop leader

Credit: Lisa Betts
Gregory Betts is an experimental poet with 11 poetry collections published in Canada, the United States, and Ireland. His books explore conceptual, collaborative, and concrete poetics. He has produced two exhaustive, prize-winning academic studies of avant-garde writing in Canada, Avant-Garde Canadian Literature: The Early Manifestations (2013) and Finding Nothing: The VanGardes, 1959-1975 (2020), both with University of Toronto Press. His most recent books include Foundry (Redfoxpress, Ireland, 2021), a collection of visual poems inspired by a font named after a 15th century poet, and The Fabulous Op (Beir Bua Press, Ireland, 2022), a collaborative epigenetic romp through the canon with Gary Barwin. He lives in St. Catharines, Ontario.


Registration for this workshop is now closed.

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