English Professor Jennifer Grotz received Rochester’s Lillian Fairchild Award last week for her book of poetry, “The Needle.”
Grotz joined the Department of English in 2009 and teaches courses in translation, poetry composition and modern and contemporary American and European poetry.
In addition to her award, Grotz was recognized by National Public Radio — which selected “The Needle” as one of the five best books of poetry published in 2011 — and was lauded as “one of America’s best young poets” by the Washington Post.
Grotz said she is happy to receive the award, given out annually to a local visual artist, writer or composer for his or her commitment to the arts in the Rochester area, because as a relative newcomer to the city, it makes her feel “welcomed into the community.”
The Lillian Fairchild Award was established in 1924 by UR Professor Herman Fairchild in memory of his daughter, who died of tuberculosis at 32.
“The Needle” was inspired by a variety of sources, Grotz said.
Every poem comes “from a different inspiration, a different moment,” but many were written during time she spent in Poland. Grotz said that places are a particular muse for her; she cites the cityscape of Krakow as especially influential. Some of her other poems draw from the Texan landscapes that she used to call home. Some operate as an elegy and commemorate her younger brother who passed away in 2006. And a few do not draw from any place or landscape at all, but rather “directly from the imagination and the mind as an interior landscape.”
Grotz’s strongest influence when writing this collection of poetry was the legacy of 20th century Polish poetry. It served as a great antidote for her “romantic tendencies,” as Polish poets were forced to snap out of their own romantic inclinations to deal with the many traumatic situations that were prominent in their lives, Grotz said.
The Holocaust forced many of these poets out of these tendencies, leading them to free themselves by reading American poetry — a dynamic Grotz said she explores in her course on Polish poetry.
Grotz is no stranger to receiving accolades for her poetry. Her first book of poems, “Cusp,” published in 2003, received the Katharine Nason Bakeless Prize in 2002 and the Natalie Ornish Best First Book of Poetry Prize from the Texas Institute of Letters in 2004.
Her newest project is a collection of translated poems by French poet Patrice de La Tour du Pin and will be released in February 2013.
Konowitch is a member of the class of 2015.