2016 Poetry Sanctuary with James

James Dewar's Poetry Sanctuary Days

Poetry Sanctuary is a full day retreat that includes a short lesson on a specific aspect of the craft of poetry, writing prompts to inspire participants to practice these aspects and produce three or more new poems, and lots of silent time for writing and/or revision.

Participants will also have the opportunity to share their work in group readings and receive private feedback from James if they choose that option. The objectives are to learn something new about the craft of writing poetry, write new poems, work on revision, and share poetry together in a welcoming and inclusive group setting.
Uplands is located in a beautiful, secluded valley on the Oak Ridges Moraine only twenty minutes north of Whitby, and less than an hour’s drive from downtown Toronto.

Enrollment is limited to ensure a high quality of mentorship and group interaction.


2016 Retreat Dates:

Saturday, March 19th…
Saturday, May 7th…
Sunday, June 26th…
Sunday, September 18th…
Saturday, November 5th…


Retreat Timetable

10:00 – 10:15 Greet and settle in
10:15 – 1:00 A discussion about a significant aspect of writing poetry that includes prompts to encourage participants to practice the key aspects of the poetry lesson. Participants will finish the morning with three or more new poems and a better understanding of the craft. They will also have the opportunity to share these fresh poems with each other in our inclusive, supportive writing circle.
1:00 – 1:45 Delicious lunch (provided)
1:45 – 2:00 Additional prompts on the topic of the day. Participants select their writing spots for the afternoon segment, whether it be at one of our many desks, in the comfortable living room area, or finding a cozy spot down by the pond or in our screened dining tent.
2:00 – 4:00 Silent writing and individual feedback sessions. All participants may send one poem to James in advance of the workshop. James will respond by discussing the elements of poetry that are working well, and provide input on anything that might make the poem more effective. Each participant who sends in a poem is allotted 10 minutes for these discussions.
4:00 – 5:00 Participants each share one of their poems with the group. This could be either a new poem written during the day of the retreat, or another poem that the participant has been working on and would appreciate critical feedback from fellow poets on what is working well in the poem. Please note that participants may pass on this aspect if they wish. Reading is never mandatory during the retreat.


COST: $80 + HST. (Includes a delicious lunch)



Reflected treeJames Dewar is the publisher of Piquant Press and Stone’s Throw Publications.

He has edited and published several books of poetry for both established and emerging talents, and co-edited many poetry anthologies.

He has taught advanced creative writing at Durham College, and has been leading workshops on poetry writing and performance for several years.

His poetry was published in The Garden in the Machine and many anthologies and literary journals. He has performed his poetry on CBC radio, Rogers TV and several university radio stations.

He enjoys organizing and hosting his monthly poetry reading series in Toronto, Hot-Sauced Words, now in its eighth year, and co-leads, with Sue Reynolds, the Inkslingers monthly poetry workshop, also in Toronto.

If I receive your cancellation notice up to five days in advance of the retreat, (for instance, if the retreat is on a Saturday, I must hear from you by midnight on the previous Sunday) you may choose to apply your deposit to a future retreat or receive a refund (minus a $20 administration fee).

If you cancel with less than five days notice, (in the example above, for instance, it would be anytime Monday or later) and your spot cannot be filled from a waiting list, no refund will be made. However, you are permitted to sell or gift your spot for that date to another person. If you do this, please email or call me right away to provide the contact information of your replacement. Since I provide lunch, it is important that I know of any dietary restrictions etc.

NOTE: *If a Poetry Sanctuary is cancelled for any reason, such as severe winter weather creates dangerous driving conditions, I will call all registered participants as soon as I have made the decision to cancel. In this situation, participants may request a full refund or transfer their payment to a future retreat date.


Poetry Sanctuary is the gift of writing-time I give myself on a regular basis to keep those poetry muscles limber and active.
Poetry sanctuary is a perfect retreat for poets of all levels of experience. It blends a pertinent lesson on craft, meaningful discussion with excellent prompts, feedback and examples of powerful poetry. Retreat-ants enjoy nourishing food for body and soul–and leave with three poems to polish!
James Dewar’s love of poetry spreads to both craft and content. His mastery of craft is evident when he teaches and his love of language and poetry provides participants with confidence and inspiration. These workshops are not to be missed!
Charlene Jones author Bliss Pig, publisher Talking to Myself (poetry with Linda Stitt)
I think that you, James, make the writing of a poem a very exciting activity. I always come away from your workshops really inspired to write something, usually based on that day’s content but developing into something beyond.
The whole experience of attending the poetry sanctuaries over a couple of years was magical. I looked forward to each month and could not wait to return. The environment is conducive to writing, a comfortable soft chair setting surrounded by wildlife and natural beauty right outside the large window facing a pond. The time allowed for each segment was just enough and to keep things moving for the day. The sharing and interaction between the participants was very inviting and friendly. I was able to push myself to read my poetry out loud in front of nonjudgmental, but rather very helpful, people and learned much from everyone.
I look forward to and value my Sanctuary Day Workshops in this away-from-it-all environment. James’ style of presentation is as easy and non-threatening as the atmosphere that surrounds us. Having said that, the lesson topic for the day is no less comprehensive than it should be with clear, concise hand outs, I think of as little nuggets of gold, to take home or use during the day in those spaces allotted to write or not to write. No pressure here. I have had poems accepted for Honourable Mention in contests and for publication that have resulted from these workshops, and I always leave stimulated and encouraged to write more.
James’ insightful feedback during the one-on-one sessions was incredibly useful, resulting in much stronger poems after revision. A special benefit of the day is the opportunity to hear the voices of the other poets.
If you want a day in a welcoming environment recharge your poetry practice at James Dewar’s Poetry Sanctuary. Participants will appreciate James’ calm and sensitive approach combined with an unfussy and humour-inflected style. The location is beautiful and the lunch is delicious.

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