Greenberg will teach documentary poetry as Distinguished Visiting Writer

Miriam Bird Greenberg has been named as the 2020-21 Distinguished Visiting Writer for Cornell College’s Center for the Literary Arts.

Miriam-Bird-GreenbergDuring Block 2 she will teach Fieldwork: Poetry as Investigative Practice, during which students will discover how fieldwork can inform and enrich creative writing. 

The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and the Poetry Foundation, Greenberg has written about the nomads, hitchhikers, and hobos living on America’s margins and crossed the continent as a hitchhiker and aboard freight trains herself. 

“Miriam Bird Greenberg embodies what it means to live an intellectually and experientially adventurous writer’s life. We are very excited to bring her to campus to share her knowledge of documentary poetics and of methods for going out into the field to investigate, stumble upon, and record,” said Becca Klaver, Robert P. Dana Director of the Center for the Literary Arts.

Greenberg is the author of the poetry collection “In the Volcano’s Mouth” (University of Pittsburgh, 2016), winner of the 2015 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize. She is also the author of two chapbooks—“All night in the new country” (Sixteen Rivers, 2013) and “Pact-Blood, Fevergrass” (Ricochet Editions, 2013).

Her Cornell course will approach poetry via direct engagement with the world beyond the classroom. At the same time, it will function as a broad survey of documentary poetics and an experiment with fieldwork-derived practice. Students will experiment with approaches such as writing poems that draw from informal interviews with friends and strangers, that utilize primary source texts, or that are paired with photographs and published as Instagram essays. At the same time, they’ll work to articulate  personal ethics to guide their own work as a journalist or anthropologist might.

Greenberg grew up on an organic farm in Texas, the daughter of a New York Jew and a goat-raising anthropologist involved in the back-to-the-land movement. These days she lives in  the San Francisco Bay area, where she teaches creative writing and English as a second language, helping jewelry students use laser cutters and architecture grad students make sense of building information systems. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, she’s taught at Stanford University and the National University of Singapore, led children’s creative writing courses around the U.S., in Bangkok, and in Shanghai, and bicycled thousands of miles in the U.S., Canada, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, and China. 

Each year The Center for the Literary Arts brings in distinguished writers to teach topic-based, upper-level creative writing courses. The writers rotate among fiction, poetry, journalism, creative nonfiction, children’s literature, and a range of other topics. While on campus, the writers also give public readings or lectures.