This event brought together the wonderful poets Chase Berggrun, Ross Gay & Alicia Ostriker to celebrate the late Gerald Stern’s final poetry book, I., published by Ayin Press in 2022. It was a beautiful evening, honoring the life and work of a legendary poet with readings, reflection, and celebration!
The event was cosponsored by Poets House, Jewish Book Council, Brooklyn Jews, and the New Jewish Culture Fellowship (NJCF).
A National Book Award–winner and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Stern was a prolific poet and essayist—as well as a civil rights activist, labor organizer, and teacher. In his obituary, the New York Times described him as a poet of “wistfulness, anger, and humor.” The Associated Press called him “one of the country’s most loved and respected poets who wrote with spirited melancholy and earthly humor about his childhood, Judaism, mortality and the wonders of the contemplative life.”
I. is an extraordinary and wild compilation of poetic modes, moods, and registers—meandering and focused, hallucinatory and concrete, deranged and deeply ecstatic. Inspired by the sight of a derelict synagogue on the Lower East Side, I. is an intrinsically New York poem, concerned with shifting structures of place and identity in the face of time and rapid change. Though first written in the late aughts, Stern’s brazen, mischievous politicality and blasphemous spirituality, refracted through the biblical book and prophetic character of Isaiah, feel particularly relevant to the present moment. Intertextual, critical, at times jubilant and derisive, I. brims with Stern’s idiosyncratic mix of high intellect and chthonic populism. Find out more about the book and Stern here.
Alicia Ostriker has published nineteen collections of poetry, been twice nominated for the National Book Award, and has twice received the National Jewish Book Award for Poetry, among other honors. As a critic she is the author of the now-classic Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women’s Poetry in America, and other books on poetry and on the Bible.
Ross Gay is the author of four books of poetry: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; Be Holding, winner of the PEN American Literary Jean Stein Award; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His first collection of essays, The Book of Delights, was released in 2019 and was a New York Times bestseller. His new collection of essays, Inciting Joy, was released by Algonquin in October of 2022.
Chase Berggrun is a trans woman poet. She is the author of R E D (Birds, LLC, 2018). Her poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, Poem-A-Day, PEN Poetry Series, Sixth Finch, Diagram, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from New York University, and lives in Brooklyn.