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Jennifer Grotz will direct Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences

June 5, 2017
archival image of Bread Loaf conference writers, including poet RObert Frost, sitting outside near a lake

The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference was founded in 1926 by poet Robert Frost, seen here third from the left in an archival photo of conference staff members from August 1960. (photo / courtesy of Middlebury College Special Collections and Archives, Middlebury, Vermont)

Poet Jennifer Grotz, a professor of English, has been named the next director of the Middlebury Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences. The first woman to hold the position, Grotz will be the seventh director of the oldest American conference for writers.

Established in 1926, Bread Loaf was conceived of by poet Robert Frost and first led by John Farrar, founder of the publishing company Farrar, Straus and Giroux. From its legendary main conference—the Writers’ Conference, held each August near Bread Loaf Mountain in the Green Mountains of Vermont—the program has expanded to encompass a cluster of related gatherings: the Translators’ Conference, the Orion Environmental Writers’ Conference, and the Bread Loaf in Sicily Conference.

What’s it like to be at Bread Loaf? Jennifer Grotz explains.

Grotz is the author of four volumes of poetry—including The Needle (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) and Window Left Open (Graywolf Press, 2016)—and has published poems in The New Yorker, New England Review, Ploughshares, and American Poetry Review, among other publications. She’s also a literary translator, with two books translated from French—Rochester Knockings (Open Letter Books, 2015) and Psalms of All My Days (Carnegie Mellon, 2013)—and other translations from French and Polish, published in a variety of journals and anthologies.

In the spring, Grotz was named a Guggenheim Fellow for 2017, one of just 11 poets to be recognized among this year’s honorees.

Unlike more solitary writers’ retreats, Bread Loaf is focused on community, drawing together a diverse array of writers. Workshops in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are its core, and participants also meet with visiting editors, literary agents, and publishers. Frost took part in the original conference for 42 years. Other notable attendees and faculty have included Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, Truman Capote, John Irving, Julia Alvarez, and Toni Morrison.

Jennifer Grotz

Jennifer Grotz (University photo / J. Adam Fenster)

A regular participant, Grotz went to Bread Loaf for the first time in 1995, as a graduate student who paid her way by waiting tables in the conference dining room. She became the assistant director in 2005. Her appointment as director follows a national search; she’ll assume the position with the October retirement of poet Michael Collier, who has been director for more than 20 years.

The conference for translators is the newest addition to the Bread Loaf program, created in 2014 under Grotz’s management.

“The experience of building the Translators’ Conference from the ground up, developing innovative ways to adapt the writing workshop to literary translation, and creating a conference that fosters both training and community have all invigorated my interest in taking on more responsibility, artistic direction, and leadership of the conferences,” she says.


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Category: The Arts