the well of poetry


the waterfall pool, gardoussel, france


Saturday 12th – Saturday 19th October 2019
‘GOING TO THE WELL: the vital art of poetry’
A creative week
Fees & bookings (through the venue): see bottom of page

Saturday 19th – Saturday 26th October
‘DRAWING FROM THE WELL: shaping a poetry collection’
A concentrated week of guidance and constructive feedback
Fees & bookings: see bottom of page

After a break, I’m so delighted for 2019 to be offering two poetry courses at Gardoussel, the beautiful retreat centre in the remote Cévennes mountains of southwest France, owned and run by my friend Sharon Black and her husband Alex Duncan.


gardoussel, france

Gardoussel is an old silk mill nestling in trees and meadows. It’s been beautifully and tastefully converted, and Sharon and Alex offer a number of writing, yoga and Ayurvedic retreats through the year.

Delicious food, time off for swimming, walking or to sway in a hammock, plenty of shady writing spots, daily workshops and group feedback sessions plus an optional visit to the local colourful market all add up to a week that is both relaxing and inspiring. There’s also massage available on-site, and we usually offer optional yoga, dancing or dynamic movement sessions down on the wooden deck by the river. At this time of year, the weather is cooler, but generally lovely enough to work out in the gardens. Did I say? Plentiful wine, if you drink. And loads of writing.



Be warned, though – both courses are intensive.

The first week is a time to inspire your creativity with my prompts, tasks, exercises and guidance, and is open to anyone who writes poetry. The second is a more focused and critique-based course with individual feedback designed to help you shape your work if you have enough good poems for a pamphlet or collection.

And in case you worry about getting there, Sharon our host and course organiser offers much information on the topic on her website and organises transport up through the mountains. Unlike, say, Iona you can get there in a day from London via the Channel Tunnel and the TGV train without flying. I also put people in touch with each other if they want to travel together.

Sat 12-19 Oct
1. ‘GOING TO THE WELL: the vital art of poetry’ – inspiring prompts and tasks for writing poetry, as well as time for exploring, reading and discussing poems.

Adrienne Rich famously said that poetry can save your life. In a dry time, or a grief-ridden time, or a time of new love, in fact in any time, poetry can nurture us; can even be essential. Perhaps we write to remember; perhaps we write to forget. Perhaps we write because we have to, because nothing else will fill that gap. Poetry helps make sense of the world, make meaning from our experiences. This week will concentrate on creating new work, and we’ll also share poems that have been significant to us. There’ll be discussion and deep exploration too: what is it that poetry can bring that nothing else can? What are the sources in our own life? How can we tend them? This week is poetry-as-soul-food.

Sat 19-26 Oct
2. ‘DRAWING FROM THE WELL: shaping a poetry collection’ You have enough material for a pamphlet or even a full collection. Now what? Tuition, discussions, work-sharing, intensive professional and peer feedback.

How do you choose what to leave in, or leave out? What needs redrafting? How do you do that? This week will offer you time to reflect and guidance to make these choices, with professional and peer feedback on some of the work you bring. I am a well-published poet and have mentored many poets through the journey from beginning to publication. Our resident poetry publisher Sharon, herself a poet, will also offer a short session on what she is looking for as a publisher, and what doesn’t cut it – and why.


2019 FEES (discount for attending both weeks)
The fee is in two parts: my fee in £, and the full board costs in € (utterly delicious plentiful vegetarian food and freeflowing wine)

MY FEE: £295 per week (£50 discount off total if attending both weeks: £540)


  • all-in except tutor fees & travel: bed in shared room €580 per week (€120 discount off total if attending both weeks)
  • all-in except tutor fees & travel: single room €730 per week (€120 discount off total if attending both weeks)
  • camping option (all-in as above): €370 per week (€120 discount off total if attending both weeks)


In 2019 I shall be celebrating 28 years’ experience of tutoring and group facilitation (there are plenty of testimonials under What they say and elsewhere on the site; many of my former or continuing students are published). My work deepens year by year, and I believe my courses are still unique.

You can contact me here. Also see: Abri Creative Writing