The Great Unknowns

Valuing Poets Without Books

How do we approach and appreciate work that has not been prejudged for us by the powers of prizes and presence on social media? What are we missing if we only read poems in single-author books? This one-day workshop starts with a rejection of the book-publishing industry as the ultimate arbiter of the art: we will read, discuss and generate work from the poems of three New York–area poets without books—Stephen Ackerman, Judy Katz and Daniel Meltz—and explore how to learn from them for our own work. We’ll spend thirty minutes reading and discussing each poet’s poems, and the following thirty minutes writing from a relevant prompt and sharing those poems. Participants can expect to leave with the beginning of three poems and a greater openness to reading “unknown” contemporary work.

Workshop Details


Jessica Greenbaum’s first book, Inventing Difficulty, was awarded the Gerald Cable Prize and praised by George Steiner as a “first book by a poet very much to be listened to.” Her second book, The Two Yvonnes, was chosen by Paul Muldoon for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and recognized by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of Poetry in 2012. She is the recipient of the 2016 Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America and a 2015 fellowship from the NEA. She teaches in the World Trade Center’s Health Program for 9/11 first responders and at Barnard College. She is the former poetry editor of upstreet and lives in Fort Greene.