Poems in Community©
describes workshops I design for small groups in New York City. I also teach in academia. Places I have taught most recently include:
Lenox Hill Neighborhood House Senior Center
92nd St Y
NYU School of Medicine WTC Health Program
(for 9/11 first responders).
I hope to begin a workshop for parents who are nurturing children with chronic mental health issues, combining traditional group support with a poetry workshop focused on the imagination and intellect of the parents themselves.
If you are part of any community looking to read and write together, drop me a line and I can tell you more.
Jessica Greenbaum: Poet, Social Worker, Workshop Director
I am a long-ago graduate of Barnard College, the inaugural class of the University of Houston’s MA program in creative writing, and more recently, NYU’s Silver School of Social Work. My first book of poems, Inventing Difficulty, came out from the Gerald Cable Prize, and my second, The Two Yvonnes, was chosen by Paul Muldoon for Princeton University Press’ Series of Contemporary Poets, and named by Library Journal as a Best Book in 2012. In 2015 I received an NEA literature award, and in 2016 I received the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Prize for poems in the manuscript of my third book Spilled and Gone. I live with my husband, the attorney and community organizer Jed Marcus, and we have two grown daughters.
Photograph: Leslie Jean-Bart
In Spilled and Gone (2019), her new collection of poems, Jessica Greenbaum envisions a Brooklyn that is real and a Brooklyn that is everywhere. She achieves this by a brilliant use of metaphor: her seagulls “wheel like immigrating thoughts,” and a half-moon at dawn is “stuck like a dime in the coin slot.” So, too, her exuberant odes to a potato masher and a stovetop espresso maker raise those mundane objects until they rise off the page, Whatever she entertains — a storm-struck tree, an outdoor concert, her immigrant grandparents, a food truck in Grand Army Plaza — her subject is 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.
Stylistically, Greenbaum’s second book, The Two Yvonnes (2012), takes more risks in her treatment of difficulty, ambivalence, and ambiguity than she does in her first book, roughing up the matrix of text, making room for other voices, allowing for greater subjective and nominal vexation and slippage. Greenbaum’s flood subject is the self and other (including the city), and her stylistic project is relational, an impulse that is heightened in the second book, perhaps partly because the subjects she treats require no invention of difficulty. Their concerns are profoundly adult: a sick child, a long marriage, a longer historical memory, and challenged faith. Her largely columnar poems, which are as storied as the buildings (and individuals) about which she writes, move chiefly by relation — phrases like as if, the way, how the abound. “We name life,” she writes in “No Ideas But in Things,” “in relation to whatever we step out from when we / open the door, and whatever comes back in on its own.”
Lisa Russ Spaar
Cover: Ambling Between, Miriam Ancis
Inventing Difficulty (2000), A sinewy, vividly intelligent humanity gives to this collection its memorable voice. In one sense, Jessica Greenbaum’s poems are incisively local—that Brooklyn landscape out of Whitman and Hart Crane. In another sense, however, they tell of the larger sadness and recognitions of our century. They “design their world through love” and scrupulous observation. A first book by a poet very much to be listened to.