These poems were all produced during a Writers in the Community (WIC) workshop led by Gillian Sze. They were originally published in WIC zines, all of which can be found here. Established in 2003, Writers in the Community is a collaborative project overseen by two non-profit organizations: the Quebec Writers’ Federation and The Centre for Literacy of Quebec.

by young ceddy j

freedom has such breeze
standing in the sand with no sandals

Early Gift
by Chelsea

I walk out onto the porch,
squint against the sun.
There’s a man in a cap
at the edge of my lawn…
– Stuart Ross, “Sitting by the Judas Hole”

Cold dark winter, there is slight loss of sun,
only the moon and stars for us to see.
Sun setting later and later every day.
Winter is here and colder than ever.
I wrap myself in a cozy warm blanket.
The halls of my house are cold and empty.
The floorboards creak as I make my way to the front door.
As I turn the knob and open the door,
a cold breeze rushes past my face.
I walk out onto the porch.
There is white snow falling
as if they are in a rush to get somewhere.
They lightly hit the ground,
falling with grace.
The sun tries so hard
to show its light.
The rays shine down
as if an angel were watching.
I see nothing while my eyes
squint against the sun.

I wait for my eyes
to focus themselves.
I see a shadowy figure.
I can’t see who it is.
My eyes are still slightly blurred.
The shadowy figure does not move.
It stands there as still as a statue.
Soon my eyes focus
and I finally see it:
there’s a man in a cap.
There he is,
a man I thought I’d never see again.
He is just standing there
as clear as daylight.
It’s been so long
since I’ve seen his face.
But there he is:
It is the husband
I thought I’d never see again, standing there,
at the edge of my lawn.


Fifteen Years of Life Is a Short Time
by Matthew

Fifteen years of life is a short time,
had a lot of friends at the age of nine,
how many days of my life do I have left?
Every day at school my life is blessed,
sometimes I feel straight, like a piece of line,
fifteen years of life is a short time.
Had a fight at school, let me rest,
when I have so much stress I do me some rhymes,
how many days of my life do I have left?
People judge people and that’s disrespect,
I only fight to rise,
fifteen years of life is a short time.
Everyday there’s a lot of mess,
done so many sins and I hate when people lie,
how many days of my life do I have left?
Man, I hate dressing up in a dress,
life ain’t no game cause it’s do or die,
fifteen years of life is a short time,
how many days of my life do I have left?


BILLY COLLINS has a poem called “Advice to Writers” in which he tells the novice to spend all night cleaning before composing a single syllable. It’s only after the walls and floors are scrubbed down, that the new writer is ready to sit at her “immaculate altar of [her] desk,” pluck out a pencil, and start writing. I should note that in the poem, Collins spends four stanzas on cleaning and one (final) stanza on the writing itself.

What I’ve come to realize about being a writing-facilitator for QWF is that writing is only a small part of what I do. While Collins’ preparatory work involves cleaning (and, of course, by that, he also means exploring, learning, and experiencing one’s surroundings), mine involves easing the youths into each session and ensuring them a safe space where they can proceed with the intimate and solitary task of composition. Every interaction—our feeling each other out and testing boundaries—affects the sort of writing we do together. Leading a workshop inevitably involves improvising, playing, and, admittedly, some coaxing.

Some participants have little or no experience with writing beyond what is required of them in their classes. Most write with the assumption that they can’t. Often they surprise themselves. Sometimes the class is full and sometimes desks sit empty because someone has a court date or an appointment with a social worker. There are shining moments when someone captures the effect of a haiku in two lines, or streams out a forty-line glosa, or ponders adolescence in a villanelle. These are no small achievements.

People often remark upon the cathartic effect this must have on the participants, and that may be so, but based on their sense of achievement (which I’m lucky to witness), writing is an opportunity to make something out of nothing and to surprise oneself in the process. Ray Bradbury puts it best when he describes writing as: “explosive self-revelation and continuous astonishment at what your deep well contains if you just haul off and shout down it.”
by Gillian Sze