Poet Jennifer Grotz Receives Lillian Fairchild Award

November 7, 2012

The Department of English at the University of Rochester has named poet Jennifer Grotz the recipient of this year’s Lillian Fairchild Award.

The award is given to a Rochester-area resident who has “created extraordinary artistic work in any medium in the past year.” This year’s selection committee chose Grotz, associate professor of English at Rochester, for her second selection of poems, The Needle, which explores both Polish and American 20th century poetry and their traditions. The collection also includes a series of poems that are elegies for her younger brother, who passed away in 2006.

Over the past year, National Public Radio selected The Needle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) as one of the five best books of poetry published in 2011, and the Washington Post noted that the collection should establish Grotz “as one of America’s best young poets.” In addition, her poem “Poppies,” originally published in the New England Review, was selected for inclusion in the anthology The Best American Poetry 2011 (Scribner).

“We are so excited that Jen is receiving this year’s Fairchild Award,” said John Michael, chair of the English department. “She is still a young poet, but she has already developed a distinctive voice and tone. The Needle is one of the most affecting poetic explorations of locale and loss that I know.”

Established by University of Rochester Professor Herman L. Fairchild in 1924, the award is in memory of his daughter, an accomplished designer who died of tuberculosis at the age of 32. It is given out annually to a local visual artist, writer, or composer for his or her commitment to the arts in the Rochester area. Grotz joins current and former English department colleagues Anthony Hecht, James Longenbach, Hyam Plutzik, Jerry Ramsey, and Joanna Scott in receiving the literature prize.

“I feel both honored and tremendously happy to receive the Fairchild Award,” said Grotz. “It’s edifying to know that my poetry has been well-received, but for me, still fairly new to Rochester, this feels like a real gift from the community.”

Grotz joined the English department at the University in 2009 and teaches courses in translation, poetry writing, and modern and contemporary American and European poetry. She is the poetry editor for Open Letter Books, the University’s press for translated literature, and is one of four creative writers on the English department faculty who help coordinate the Plutzik Reading series, the longest running collegiate poetry reading series in the United States. She also is the recipient of awards from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Rona Jaffe Foundation, and the Camargo Foundation.

In addition to her academic pursuits, she is the assistant director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Middlebury, Vt. Founded in 1926 by American poet Robert Frost, the gathering is the oldest writers’ conference in the United States. The conference also is where Grotz said she received her most important education as a poet, one that she is happy to pass on to others. “It’s a privilege for me to be able to help carry on that essential tradition of nurturing and guiding young writers in the assumption of their voice and craft,” said Grotz.

The Needle is Grotz’s second collection of poetry. Her first book, Cusp, received the Katharine Nason Bakeless Prize and the Natalie Ornish Best First Book of Poetry Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters. Her poems, essays, translations, and reviews have appeared widely in journals such as Boston ReviewKenyon ReviewNew England ReviewPloughsharesSouthern Review, and in anthologies including the Pushcart and Best American Poetry.

Her newest book, The Psalms of All My Days, is a translation of poems by the French poet Patrice de La Tour du Pin that will be released February 2013 from Carnegie Mellon University Press.

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