Martin Cain ’13 was able to do something this summer that many professional writers twice his age can only dream about. He was selected to attend the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, sponsored by Middlebury College, in Ripton, Vt. Participants must apply and be accepted, and attend as either nonfiction, fiction or poetry writers. Cain attended the poetry section and was the youngest poet at the highly selective conference. This year there were 1691 applicants for approximately 200 spots. Bread Loaf has been called the “oldest and most prestigious writing conference in the country” by The New Yorker.
Cain explained, “I’ve been passionate about literature as long as I can remember, and the past year of my life has been focused almost exclusively on poetry. That being said, the number of serious poets I had interacted with prior to Bread Loaf was small.” He said going to Bread Loaf provided him the opportunity to surround himself with a large number of people who share his passion for writing.
“Bread Loaf has been described as a place where one is torn between wanting to leave immediately and wanting to stay forever,” Cain remarked. “This couldn’t be more true—it was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life, academic or otherwise.”
While at the conference, Cain received feedback on his work, visited Robert Frost’s old cabin, read Whitman in fields with fellow writers, and was in a workshop with A. Van Jordan, one of his favorite poets. Bread Loaf participants attend craft classes, lectures, numerous readings, meet with editors, and attend a workshop that meets every other day for two hours. “The readings and lectures were also incredible,” Cain said. “Some of the highlights for me were Arda Collins, Tom Sleigh, Louise Glück, Charles Baxter, Richard Bausch, and the new U.S. Poet Laureate, Philip Levine.”
Bread Loaf alumni include Robert Frost, Anne Sexton, Eudora Welty and Truman Capote, among many other noted writers.
Now that he’s back to being a student at Hamilton, Cain has had time to reflect on the experience. “I entered Bread Loaf with a great deal of anxiety about whether or not I was meant to be there, and left with a feeling that I’d like to do nothing more with my life than be a poet and a teacher.”
Cain is a creative writing major from Marlboro, Vt.