This workshop will explore core Jewish values as a valuable frame for writing, reading and discussing lyrical autobiographical poetry. For instance, the teaching instruction to “Turn it, and turn it again,” which encourages new ways to read texts read for thousands of years: we will look at this in relation to looking at both poems and our own lives (which we may choose to use for poems). Other concepts will include “separation of time,” essential to Judaism since Genesis’s separation of the oceans from the sky, and Shabbat from the rest of the week: how does “separation” work in texts—stanzas and line breaks—but also in how we separate the sacred from the daily in our choice of subject matter for our work? Students can look forward to reading a broad range of accessible, engaging poetry, learning how to find poems within their own experience and recognizing what part of their writing sensibility shares Jewish values and concepts. We will also celebrate those individual values students identify within their sensibilities. The emphasis of this workshop is on communal discovery rather than mastery and how poems can delight and offer revelation about the human condition.
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. As a social worker she has run poetry reading and writing groups for older adults and will be initiating a similar pilot program for 9/11 first responders. She is the poetry editor of upstreet and lives in Fort Greene.