Award-winning poet named program director at Bennington College

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NORTH BENNINGTON — Bennington College has named an award-winning poet as the new director of the Bennington Writing Seminars.

Mark Wunderlich will become the third director in the program's history, following Sven Birkerts, who will return to the program's faculty in June 2018, and founding director Liam Rector. Wunderlich, a poet and essayist, has been a member of the Bennington College faculty since 2004, and a core faculty member of the Writing Seminars, the college's master of fine arts program in writing, since 2009.

"I believe in the vision of the program: that being a writer is an extension of being a critical and discerning reader," said Wunderlich. "I want to celebrate and evolve the model that has yielded so many incredible writers, while connecting it to Bennington's broader literary history and ensuring that the Writing Seminars represent the diversity, complexity, and richness of American literature today."

"With his deep commitment to literature and rigorous writing instruction, Mark embodies the values of the Bennington Writing Seminars," said Bennington College President Mariko Silver. "Between Mark's strong roots at Bennington and his vision for how the program fits in the national landscape, we are thrilled to see him take on this new role, and we are looking forward to a bright future for the program."

Wunderlich, who was born in Winona, Minn. and grew up in Fountain City, Wis., has taught in the graduate writing programs at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York, Ohio University, and San Francisco State University and undergraduate writing and literature courses at Stanford University, Barnard College in New York City and Stonehill College in Easton, Mass.

He attended Concordia College's Institute for German Studies and later the University of Wisconsin, from which he received a bachelor's degree in German Literature and English. He earned a Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University's School of the Arts Writing Division. His first book, "The Anchorage," was published in 1999 by the University of Massachusetts Press, and received the Lambda Literary Award. His 2014 volume of poems, "The Earth Avails," received the 2015 Rilke Prize from the University of North Texas and is currently a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Award, the world's largest monetary prize for a single collection of poetry at $100,000, given by Claremont Graduate University to the writer of the best poetry volume of the last year.

"Between faculty members, students, and alumni at both the graduate and undergraduate level, Bennington has been at the forefront of some of the most interesting writing in American literature," said Wunderlich. "For a small college, we punch way above our weight."

"Founded in 1994, Bennington's Writing Seminars was one of the first low-residency graduate writing programs in the country," according to a release from the college. "During this two-year, low-residency program, students commit as much to reading as to writing and conceive reading lists that strengthen and broaden their knowledge. Students perform critical literary analysis and craft bold new works of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry inspired by their discoveries. They finish with a polished thesis and a parting lecture. All this with the expert guidance of authors who, throughout individualized instruction, become familiar with and develop a stake in students' work."

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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