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 thirty minutes writing from a relevant prompt for each 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. Of her most recent book, Spilled and Gone, Grace Schulman says the poems are “enlivened by keen observation, a fresh mind, and a vivid sense of place that makes me want to be there, with her, in her world.” A recipient of awards from the NEA and PSA, she teaches inside and outside academia, including for Barnard College and Footsteps, a service agency for people who have left ultra-Orthodoxy.