Yetzirah's Annual Summer Conference


Yetzirah’s inaugural summer conference will be held June 20-25, 2023, in the mountains of Western North Carolina, in partnership with the University of North Carolina—Asheville’s Center for Jewish Studies. Our time together will consist of a mix of generative workshops focused around Jewish questions and themes, discussion panels, craft talks, readings with Faculty and a selection of Fellows and Scholars, as well as many shared meals and celebrations.

It is our aim that the conference will function as an egalitarian community, supporting writers at all levels of their careers. To this end:

  • All workshops will be generative, allowing writers of different experience to share the same creative space
  • To keep this first gathering both intimate and manageable, all interested participants will be required to apply, and the number of participants will be limited to 36:
    • CONTRIBUTORS—15 open opportunities, for poets with some history of publication 
    • SCHOLARS9 poets earlier in their careers, who’ve published up to one full-length collection (the funding for Scholars covers tuition)
    • FELLOWS12 poets who’ve published at least two full-length collections (the funding for Fellows covers tuition, room, & board)
  • Evening readings, which will include our Faculty and a selection of Scholars and Fellows, will be open to the community and welcoming to poetry lovers of all traditions, offering an opportunity for local residents to hear work from some of the prominent Jewish poets of our time
    • These readings will also be livestreamed and recorded

Find a provisional schedule here.

Our generative workshops will be led by Rodger Kamenetz, Ilya Kaminsky, and Alicia Ostriker. Participants will be divided into three workshop cohorts, which will attend a different class each day of the conference, allowing participants to work with all three of our faculty. 


“Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.”—Genesis 21:19
“…if you look well at his place, he is no longer there”Psalms 37:10

In Genesis,  Hagar—the stranger—is sent out to the desert with her child to die of thirst. But an angel speaks to her and God opens her eyes. Then she sees a well she had not seen before. I take this as a parable of revision.  

Here’s a second one: Rebbe Nachman, discussing how we might learn to judge others more favorably, advises us to “look well” at them.  In this class we will learn to “look for a well” in our poems, that is look for the living images, and also “look well,” to find what is good in a poem and elevate it. In this generative workshop, I will teach techniques to make new poems by working with your old ones, drawing on my work with dream images, and a process in poetry I call self-midrash.

Our goal is to “look well” for what is good and go deeper into the well of images where our poems come from.

We will read poems from Jewish poets of Eastern Europe and elsewhere and we will marvel together on the idea of poetic lineages: how do poets learn from other poets across time and geography? Is there such a thing as a poetics of diaspora? poetics of exile? How do poets enter in conversation with poets that came before them? How do poets bring back to life the authors who came before them and were (unjustly) forgotten? How can our own words grow and change as we overhear conversations between other poets, on and off the page? I hope that in our time together we will all ask impossible questions—and then try to answer them with unpredictable new lyrics.


She is a tree of life to those that lay hold on her.—Proverbs 3:18

There are so many things the narratives of Torah don’t tell us. This is where midrash comes in. According to tradition, Torah is not words alone. Torah is black fire written on white fire. Through midrash, we can imagine the unsaid, the white fire. We can read between the lines. We can see the connection between our ancestors and ourselves, and we can see that Torah is not only a very ancient Book–it is a totally modern one too. It mirrors our lives and the life of society, at least as well as any novel, and maybe better. It can be a window into our own souls. Small wonder that there has been an explosion of midrash writing in America. Small wonder that increasing numbers of poets today are trying their hand at midrash writing, using Biblical characters and situations to illuminate the world we live in—and discovering new meanings in the ancient stories.

No deep knowledge of the Bible is required for this generative poetry workshop. Be prepared to surprise yourself and others by writing something you never thought you would write. Be prepared to laugh, and perhaps to weep. Be prepared for illumination.  

ELIGIBILITY & FEES (back to top)
Regardless of your religious practice or lack thereof, of whether you think of yourself or your writing as “Jewish enough,” applications are open to anyone who self-identifies as a Jewish poet and feels that such a gathering would be meaningful to them and to their poetry. In addition, we require the following:

  • All applicants must be 21 years of age or older by the start of the Conference in June 2023
  • To cultivate community, all applicants will be required to stay on campus (though apartments will be shared, all rooms will be single-occupancy, with accessible accommodations available)
  • We also ask that participants attend all official events, unless their health requires otherwise
  • All applicants will need to show proof of COVID vaccination and at least one booster, as well as a negative test taken within 24-hours before the first day of the conference
    • All participants will agree to take a COVID test if requested due to possible exposure (tests will be provided). More extensive COVID policies can be found below
  • The non-refundable application fee is $20 (this can be waived if this fee is a hardship)


February 1, 2023: Application period opens for all prospective participants

*To aid in the ease of our considerations, we ask that you apply as early as possible within the given application window.

March 24, 2023: Application deadline
April 24, 2023: Notifications sent to all applicants
May 1, 2023: Registration deadline (a deposit of $200 will be due at this time. This will go toward Scholar’s room & board. It will be returned Fellows after the conference.)

*a waitlist of Scholars & Fellows will be created if an opportunity becomes available
**applicants whom we are not able to accommodate as a Scholar or a Fellow will, if they are interested, be considered for a Contributor slot

April 10, 2023: Application deadline
April 30-June 9, 2023: Rolling acceptances (with rolling registration deadlines TBA)



Applicants who wish to join the Yetzirah Summer Conference as Contributors should have a deep love of and commitment to poetry and interest in engaging further with its intersections with Jewish culture and tradition. Some record of publication, as well as previous experience attending generative creative writing workshops is recommended but not required. 


Applicants who wish to join the Yetzirah Summer Conference as Scholars may have published up to one full-length collection of poetry.

Competitive applicants will have published, since January 1, 2015, (not including self-published work):

  • at least 20 or more individual poems or pages of poetry that appear in at least five literary journals, anthologies, or publications that regularly include poetry as a portion of their format.
    • Up to 16 pages of that poetry may be from a single volume of poetry that is fewer than 48 pages (e.g. a chapbook)

We believe people of any age can be an “emerging” poet and welcome writers who fulfill the above requirements, young and old, to apply for this fellowship.

    • View Scholar Application
    • Fees: $500 for room & board only (funding for Scholars covers the full $700 tuition )
    • In addition to waived tuition, each Scholar will be paired with a Conference Fellow to receive mentorship that includes a manuscript evaluation (of no more than 10 pages)


Applicants who wish to join the Yetzirah Summer Conference as established poets should have published at least two full-length collections by a nationally-distributed press and have a strong record of publication.

  • View Fellow Application
  • Fellows receive free tuition, room, & board. In exchange, fellows will be expected to do no more than two of the following (with individual preferences respected as much as possible):
    • Be part of a discussion panel
    • Give a craft talk
    • Give a subject-based talk
    • Act as a mentor for an emerging writer (all formal mentorship will be confined to the duration of the conference, and will include a 10-page manuscript consultation)
    • Give a reading


  1. Once you’ve downloaded and completed your application, save the document with the following naming convention:

First Initial Last Name.Type of Applicant.Application

Example file name: JJacobs.Contributor.Application or JJacobs.Fellow.Application


2. Create a 10-page writing sample (12-point font, 1-inch margins) containing no more than one poem per page.

The poems can be published or unpublished. If a poem has been published previously, please indicate the publication details at the top of the page. Poems will be read for their craft, not for their engagement (or lack thereof) with Jewish themes, and the poem’s publication history will count neither for nor against your application.

Save your writing sample with the following naming convention:

First Initial Last Name.Type of Applicant.Sample

Example file name: JJacobs.Contributor.Sample


3. Next, click here to pay the $20 application fee.

As we want our conference to be as accessible and welcoming as possible, if this fee would be a hardship for you, we’ve also provided an option for a fee-free submission at the link above. This will, of course, play no part in our consideration of applications.

4. Finally, in a single email, please send your completed application and writing sample as attachments to Shelby Sizemore, [email protected]




On January 29, Jessica Jacobs & Yerra Sugarman held an online informational session, in which they gave an overview of the conference and answered questions.
Find a recording of this session here.

Q: Who will be reading my application?
A: Yetzirah’s Board members, each of whom have published multiple books, will be considering applications, and applications will be read by at least two people.

Q: What factors will be a part of evaluation applications?
A: First and foremost, we’ll be looking at the strength of the writing sample submitted. We will then take into consideration the overall needs and balance of the conference, including mentorship roles, discussion panels, etc.

Q: Do I need to have an MFA to be considered for a fellowship?
A: No.

Q: If I apply to be a Scholar or a Fellow and am not accepted, can I still apply as a Contributor?
A: On the application form, you can select if you’d also like to be considered as a Contributor. No further application is necessary.

Q: With different types of participants, will the conference feel hierarchical?
A: Though participants will be tasked with different responsibilities, all 36 of our participants will be treated as equal members of our community. As our conference continues, we hope that one year’s Contributor will be the next year’s Scholar; one year’s Scholar, the next year’s Fellow; and so on, creating an experience that supports Jewish poets at all stages of their career.

Q: Can I receive feedback on my application?
A: Unfortunately, because Yetzirah is a small nonprofit with a limited staff, we are unable to provide feedback on individual applications.

Q: Can I apply if I live outside of the U.S.?
A: Yes! We welcome anyone who identifies as a Jewish poet.

Q: What is campus housing like?
A: Yetzirah participants will be housed in one of the newest dorms on campus. Apartments will have between 3-5 participants with shared bathrooms and a kitchen (there will be a refrigerator, but little to no cookware), with all rooms single-occupancy. Bed linens and towels will be provided. 

Q: Is UNCA accessible?
A: Accessible housing will be available and all classrooms, event spaces, and common rooms will be wheelchair-accessible. You can visit UNCA’s Office of Academic Accessibility to learn more. And if you have specific concerns or questions, please contact us at [email protected].

Q: Will kosher food be available on campus?
A: Lunches will be held in the Highsmith Union Food Court. Food certified kosher will not be available there but a-la carte vegetarian and vegan meals will always be available. For dinners we provide, we will do our best to honor our participants’ dietary needs. We will be happy to order kosher food delivery on request or to receive others’ kosher food delivery, and will have at least one kashered microwave available.

Q: The conference goes from Tuesday to Sunday. How will Shabbat be observed?
A: All classes and afternoon events will conclude before sundown and all participants will be invited to attend a shared Shabbat dinner. On Saturday, sabbath observances will be based on the practices and needs of our participants. Asheville is home to Chabad-Lubavitch WNC, Congregation Beth Israel, and Congregation Beth HaTephila. For our more secular participants, Saturday will be a day open to explore Asheville and its beautiful surroundings. On Saturday evening, we will all gather back together for a closing Havdalah bonfire.

Q: Can my family join me on campus for the conference?
A: Friends and family are welcome at all events open to the public, which at this point are the evening readings. We are still considering possibly making some afternoon events open to the public. Unfortunately, given the shared apartments available, we are unable to offer on-campus accommodations to anyone other than Conference participants.

Q: I was invited to attend the Conference as a Scholar or Fellow; can I definitely give a reading?
A: While we wish we had enough time to allow everyone to read, Yetzirah staff will have to make those difficult decisions, doing our best to give all participants an opportunity to have their voices joined to the chorus of our community.


Other questions? Please email us at [email protected].