Yetzirah Workshops

Study with some of today’s most dynamic poets, scholars, translators, theologians, and teachers.

 

Our workshops are offered live online via zoom, as well as asynchronously; so you can learn with our faculty any time.

    Spring 2024: Workshops

    Live Online via Zoom

    Though we encourage live attendance for you to get the most out of the experience, all sessions will be recorded and sent to participants.

    “Poetic Lineages” with Ilya Kaminsky

    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.

    This workshop will be a modified version of the one Ilya taught at our 2023 Jewish Poetry Conference, to give you a taste of Yetzirah’s conference offerings.

    Sunday (1 pm ET for 1.5+ hours) March 31

    $36—standard registration

    $30—discounted registration for Yetzirah Members (you can become a member here)

    *As we want our offerings to be accessible to all, there is a pay-what-you-can option if this pricing is a hardship

    Ilya Kaminsky was born in Odessa, former USSR and came to USA in 1993 when his family was granted asylum by the American government. He is the author of Dancing in Odessa (Tupelo) and Deaf Republic (Graywolf) as well as co-editor of Ecco Anthology of International Poetry (Harper Collins), Homage to Paul Celan (Marick) and many other books. He has also translated books by Marina Tsvetaeva, Polina Barskova, Boris and Ludmila Khersonsky, among others. His work has received The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, The Guggenheim Fellowship, and was shortlisted for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award.  Visit Ilya’s profile in Yetzirah’s Jewish Poets Database.

    December 10, 2023: This workshop is now full, but will be available to take in the summer as an asynchronous, pre-recorded course.

    If you like, you can add your name to this waitlist, in case a participant is not able to attend.

    Alicia Ostriker has published seventeen volumes of poetry, including The Volcano and After; Waiting for the Light; The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog; The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems 1979-2011; and The Imaginary Lover, winner of the William Carlos Williams Award. She was twice a National Book Award Finalist, for The Little Space (1998) andThe Crack in Everything (1996), and twice a National Jewish Book Award winner. Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker,  American Poetry Review, The Atlantic, Paris Review, Best American Poetry, The Pushcart Anthology, and many other journals and anthologies, and has been translated into numerous languages including Hebrew and Arabic. Ostriker’s critical work includes the now-classic Stealing the Language: the Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, and other books on American poetry and on the Bible. Visit Alicia’s profile in our Discover Jewish Poets database.

    “White Fire: the Art & Play of Midrash” with Alicia Ostriker 

    If the text does not apply to us it is an empty text…. We take the text in relation to ourselves, understanding ourselves in its light, even as our situation throws its light upon the text, allowing it to disclose itself differently, perhaps in unheard-of ways.–Gerald Bruns, “Midrash and Allegory: the Beginning of Scriptural Interpretation”

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

    Midrash (pl. midrashim) is from a term in Hebrew meaning seek or investigate. The word has many meanings in Jewish history, but for poets, it means re-telling the compelling stories of Torah in every generation, in ways that are both personal and communal.  For when we create new midrash in response to our own spiritual and psychic needs, we are simultaneously adding to and transforming our tradition, growing new twigs on the Tree of Life that is Torah, and helping to create the future of Judaism. 

    Imagine that you are Eve.  You have just had an interesting conversation with a talking serpent who insists that God doesn’t want you to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because He is afraid you will become as one of the gods yourself.  You regard the tree, and see that the fruit is attractive, good to eat, and good for making a person wise.  You reach forth your hand, take the fruit, and eat.  What do you feel at that moment?  What are you thinking? 

    Imagine that you are Jacob.  You are alone at night in the Negev Desert.  Your family is on one side of the Jabbok river, and you are on the other, worrying.  In the morning you will be meeting your brother Esau.  You haven’t seen him for twenty years, not since you cheated him out of your father’s blessing and he threatened to kill you.  Suddenly a man appears from nowhere and leaps on you, throwing you to the ground.  He wrestles with you all night.  He dislocates your thigh.  Neither of you wins.  As the sky lightens, the strange being says, “Let me go,  for dawn is coming.”  What are you feeling at that moment? 

    There are countless 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 imagine the breadth and depth of the unsaid, the silences, the hidden conflicts and exaltations, the white fire.  We 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.  As we enter the stories, the stories enter us, and both are changed forever. 

    In these workshops, we explore biblical texts in free-form discussion, we write in response to prompts, we commonly astonish ourselves and each other by what we write, we laugh a lot, and sometimes we cry.

    Asynchronous Workshops

    Pre-recorded classes; so you can study on your schedule.

    Telling the Soul’s Stories:

    Spiritual Anecdote & Autobiography

    Spiritual experience often feels private, isolating, uncommunicable. Spiritual autobiographies, from anecdotes to full-blown memoirs, use storytelling techniques to break down this sense of isolation, offering others glimpses of our own struggles and exaltations, and, more importantly, because readers interpret narratives by identifying with characters and projecting our own lives onto events in stories, turning our private experiences into stories through which others can recognize, reflect on, and be inspired in their own spiritual journeys. In this generative writing workshop we will look at examples of spiritual anecdote and autobiography, discuss the communicability and incommunicability of spiritual experience, and practice using midrash, haiku, and self-inventory to develop our own spiritual narratives.

    • 3 recorded classes, followed by recorded Q&As
    • handouts with representative texts and prompts to guide your writing

    $54—standard registration

    $44—discounted registration for Yetzirah Members (you can become a member here)

    *As we want our offerings to be accessible to all, there is a pay-what-you-can option if this pricing is a hardship.

    Joy Ladin has published ten books of poetry, including National Jewish Book Award winner The Book of Anna, Lambda Literary Award finalists Transmigration and Impersonation, and newly published Shekhinah Speaks  (Selva Oscura). She is also the author of a memoir, National Jewish Book Award finalist Through the Door of Life; and Lambda Literary and Triangle Award finalist The Soul of the Stranger. Visit Joy’s profile in Yetzirah’s Jewish Poets Database.

    The Golden Chain:

    An Introduction to Yiddish Poetry

    Curious about Yiddish poetry? Eager to draw on Yiddish literature as inspiration for your own writing and art? No language or cultural background is required for this four-week, online course introducing the richness, beauty, and diversity of Yiddish poetry. Together we’ll read and discuss great Yiddish poems and writers, exploring the themes, contexts, and concerns of modern Yiddish poetry and their meaning for our own lives and labors.

    • 4 recorded classes
    • handouts with representative texts and prompts to guide your writing

     

    $72—standard registration

    $59—discounted registration for Yetzirah Members (you can become a member here)

    *As we want our offerings to be accessible to all, there is a pay-what-you-can option if this pricing is a hardship.

    Daniel Kraft is a writer, poet, translator, and essayist. He holds a master’s degree in Jewish studies from Harvard Divinity School, where he was a resident at the Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions. His poems and essays appear in a number of publications including Image, Jewish Currents, EcoTheo Review, and Peripheries; his translations of Yiddish, along with brief personal and critical essays, can be found in his newsletter, Di Freyd Fun Yidishn Vort/The Joy of the Yiddish Word. In addition to writing and translating, Daniel has worked as a full-time Director of Education at synagogues across the American South, and as an educator at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow, Poland. Visit Danny’s profile in Yetzirah’s Jewish Poets Database.

    Writing God

    When we think about God and divine-human relationships, we often feel powerless. But human beings have virtually unlimited power in terms of how we use language to name, invoke, and imagine the divine. We will examine a wide range of examples of this power in biblical and other traditional religious texts, and in modern and contemporary poems, and practice techniques we find there to learn to create language to reflect and extend our own sense of the divine.

    • 3 recorded classes, followed by recorded Q&As
    • handouts with representative texts and prompts to guide your writing

    $54—standard registration

    $44—discounted registration for Yetzirah Members (you can become a member here)

    *As we want our offerings to be accessible to all, there is a pay-what-you-can option if this pricing is a hardship.