Robert Frost’s Ghost: The Bread Loaf Writers Conference

by Leanne Ogasawara

Bread Loaf Writers Conference 2023


I walked through woods muddy and wet, feet sinking down into the boggy earth. With each step, mosquitoes rose up in clouds. It felt more like I was forging a river than walking a path through woods.

I was told that it was less than two miles to Robert Frost’s writing cabin in the woods. According to the Bread Crumb, the daily newsletter put out by the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, it was a must-see. Just follow the pink ribbons…it instructed. And sure enough, pretty pink ribbons were tied to tree branches, marking the way, whenever two roads diverged through the woods.

I had only applied to the conference on a whim. Well, not a whim exactly, but more like a major disappointment and a bad experience with a literary agent sent me spiraling… but then after a week of tears, I decided to just get back up again. What else could I do anyway?  “Fall down seven times, get back up eight” 七転び八起き says the old Japanese proverb.

And so, I applied to several workshops and one residency.

I don’t recall where or how I first heard about Bread Loaf. Maybe it was from that old Simpson’s episode, when Lisa launches tavern-owner Moe’s literary career by sending his poem to a magazine:

Howling at a concrete moon,

My soul smells like a dead pigeon after three weeks.

I shut my window and go to sleep.

In my dream I eat corn with my eyes.

Moe’s poem creates a literary splash, and he is immediately invited to attend Word Loaf, where Jonathan Franzen and Michael Chabon—both played by themselves—end up getting into a fight. And, everyone but Lisa goes on a hay ride.

Thinking about it, though, I wonder if I didn’t first hear about Bread Loaf in connection to the great American poet Robert Frost.

Do American kids in public schools still memorize his poems? Read more »