a nonprofit devoted to interdisciplinary arts and humanities public education


Jewish-American Poetry

Hannah Weiner by Nelson Howe, c. 1975.

Hannah Weiner by Nelson Howe, c. 1975.

The quality and quantity of Jewish-American poetry over the past century stands as one of the premier cultural achievements in the English language. Yet enormous questions about this work remains to be asked. What makes a poem Jewish? What makes it American? What did these poets have in common with each other, and with the Jewish past? What is the relationship of this recent body of work in English to the Hebrew poetry of Millennia ago? What relationship does it have to Contemporary Israeli poetry in Hebrew? What relationship does it have to the long tradition of Yiddish across the diaspora? 

Each week, Jewish-American Poetry will bring together a contemporary poet, a literary scholar and a Rabbi or theologian to discuss one or two major poems by a 20th or 21st century Jewish-American poet, and consider it in the context of one or two major texts from the Jewish past. We'll discover how "secular" texts can have religious interpretations and resonances, and how "religious" texts can have secular, and indeed very worldly and political interpretations. The seminar series will seek to reach out across many branches and strands of Contemporary Jewish life and thought, to bring together in dialogue worlds which often feel far apart, even as they share so much in common. You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy this, but expect bagels and cream cheese to be served alongside the poetry, nevertheless.