For Amherst College’s fourth annual LitFest, The Common put together a Literary Landmarks tour of Amherst College, highlighting locations on campus with special connections to literary figures affiliated with the college, from Robert Frost to Lauren Groff. Building on that effort, we’ve compiled these highlights from The Common that were written either by or about Amherst professors, alums, and even current students.
Richard Wilbur graduated from Amherst College in 1942, and returned to Amherst to teach towards the end of his life, from 2008 to 2014.
“Richard Wilbur first visited Rome with the American Fifth Army that liberated the city, just behind the fleeing Germans, on 5 June 1944. By 10:00 p.m., his division, the 36th Texans, in trucks, in jeeps, and on mobile artillery, followed the tanks of the First Armored Division into the southern outskirts of Rome, where it paused, expecting to camp and rest within Cinecittà—then, as now, the sprawling center of Italy’s movie industry. Ever the explorer, Wilbur wandered into an abandoned viewing room and found, already loaded into an editing machine, a costume drama set in the Roman Empire. He turned the hand crank and watched a Fascist version of ancient history until his disgust overcame his curiosity.”
Lauren Groff is the New York Times bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, as well as the enviably acclaimed short story collection Delicate Edible Birds. Her forthcoming novel Fates and Furies will be published by in September by Riverhead. Lauren and S. Tremaine Nelson connected over Skype for a few minutes, inexplicably without sound, communicating with primitive hand gestures and unrecognizable symbols, until they agreed to give up on that futuristic technology and connect the old-fashioned way, over the phone. They spoke for about an hour, covering a variety of topics like tailgating, running, reading, and, of course, writing.
Write Like a Shark: an Interview with Lauren Groff
Once upon a time, I believed that writing was the same thing as being a writer. This was before I understood that scribbling a messy sentence in a notebook was not actual writing, a time when I bought gamely into the self-sparked romance of becoming a writer: a life of moonlit walks beside rivers, bare apartments dancing with light, foreign languages drifting through a window full of geraniums. Being a writer meant being somewhere else, anywhere that promised architecture and meaningful encounters with sophisticated natives and a chilly, ascetic version of me pinned like an anchorite to my pages. I knew I could never be a writer in the place where I was born, small, cold Cooperstown with its mysterious lake. Laughable idea, that!
My wife has always been a kind woman, but during the six months when I was in prison, her kindness grew to be a firm, beating thing. She called me every day and sent small and constant gifts. She brought our children to visit, and the kids soon lost their fury and held their smiles behind their palms, watching me with a kind of incredulous wonder. My wife was so graceful in the newspaper photographs and interviews, shining on me so much of her own quiet light, that by the time I was released I was more a figure of pity, even a scapegoat, than the monster I’d been painted as throughout the trial.