This film, produced by the American Embassy in Beirut and aired a few years ago, features Between the Lines 2008 student Ali Awarke and contains pictures of the BTL 2008 participants. (Arabic audio, no subtitles)
Our very own Peter Nazareth signals the near-future arrival of the 3-volume Ugandan Asians: Then and Now, Here and There, We Contributed, We Contribute, by Vali Jamal—a survey of and a rich anthology documenting generations of Ugandans of South Asian origins, in their homeland and in diaspora. Mary and Peter Nazareth were among them, leaving Kampala for the UK with their two kids in 1972, then finding their way to the IWP and the University of Iowa ...where they have been a mainstay of the IWP ever since, leaving behind a legacy of work, memoirs and memories. So, a backhanded thanks to Idi Amin after all?
The wonderful insanity that is the Jaipur Literature Festival kicked off this morning, and over the course of the next few days, figures such as Junot Diaz, Nam Le, Jim Crace, and Adam Zagajewski take the stage(s) with some of India’s largest literary forces.
And what better way to get this festival started (and highlighted here!) than with a conversation between Nobel Award-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk (IWP ’85) and Indian novelist, blogger, and critic Chandrahas Choudhury (IWP ’10)?
We asked Chandrahas about the conversation at hand, involving two former participants of the Fall Residency, twenty-five years apart:
"I've always loved Pamuk's work ever since I first came to at the age of 23, when I read My Name Is Red. Indeed, I think of him as central to my own novelistic education. I think of Pamuk as a marvelously fluent, musical, and novelistic novelist. This last phrase might sound like a tautology, but it's amazing how many novelists, including some exponents of the doorstopper American novel, are not really novelistic.
"Pamuk is one of those novelists who are ambitious without being difficult. He knows how to steal it all in, and in his books moments of high seriousness and philosophical depth are mixed with the most ingenious and mischievous sallies and tangents (such as the appearance in The Museum of Innocence, set in 1975, at the protagonist Kemal Basmaci's engagement party scene, of 'the chain-smoking twenty-three-year-old Orhan Pamuk, nothing special about him beyond his propensity to act nervous and impatient, affecting a mocking smile'). His work combines, in a very original way, the realist novelist's love of psychological exploration and a compelling 'illusion of reality' with a postmodernist's skepticism, trickery, and self-consciousness about form. My Name Is Red and The Musem of Innocence must be two of the greatest stories about love, desire, the body, and time that I've ever read. I was delighted to know, when at the IWP this fall, that Pamuk is an alumnus of the program, and I'm really looking forward to our talk later this week."
Reviews and articles on Turkish literature and Orhan Pamuk litter Choudhury’s blog The Middle Stage, as well as the newspaper he frequently writes for, Mint, including Nazim Hikmet, Orhan Veli Kanik, Orhan Kemal, and Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar.
If that weren’t enough, further events at JLF include IWP alumni Meena Kandasamy (IWP ’09) and Kavery Nambisan (IWP ’07). If you’re there, let us know!
When the young psychologist Guesly Michel came to Iowa City from Port-au Prince this summer to learn about writing as a therapeutic procedure (the Patient Voice program at the UI Hospitals and Clinics has had a similar program for a number of years), he was by his own admission new to the game. Two weeks into his stay here, as one of his daily assignments for the ISWF class "Memoirs of Illness and Health" he took, out came a vignette, an 'amniotic memory' of sorts—and also Guesly's very first attempt at writing in English. And yesterday his piece appeared in the UI's arts bulletin, The Daily Palette! Beau travail, Guesly!
In related news, a volume of 15 Haitian writers responding to the January 12th 2010 earthquake is forthcoming from 91stMBooks/AHB.
With the August humidity in its finest form, we give you something to stay inside for: the writers of the 2010 Fall Residency! With 38 writers from more than 30 countries, you'll want to stay involved as we run through a slate of nearly 80 events in 80 days, in Iowa City, across the state of Iowa, and through the U.S. Keep track of our courses, panel lectures, film screenings, and public readings at our website, http://iwp.uiowa.edu.
This year's Between the Lines (BTL) was our most ambitious yet.
- We received a record number of student applications from a record number of embassies. Our final set of 12 students ranged in age from 16 to 18, and represented Algeria, Bahrain, Lebanon, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority (both West Bank and Gaza). Among them were poets, prose writers, and one playwright; several were either pre-med or hoping to become pre-med; two will start college in the States this fall.
- We worked even more closely with the Iowa Young Writers' Studio (IYWS) to ensure interaction and collaboration between our students and the American students. To that end, most BTL students had an American roommate, and all BTL students took creative writing workshops in both English and Arabic. This year's Arabic workshop was facilitated by two former BTL instructors, Tarek Eltayeb (IWP 2008, Egypt/Austria) and Dunya Mikhail (Iraq/US).
- Our first-ever "Arabic 101" evening event, led by chaperone Gladys Youssef (Lebanon), gave IYWS students (and some IYWS and BTL staff) the opportunity to learn the Arabic alphabet and some common words and phrases, and to write their name in Arabic. I'm still thinking of creative ways to display mine:
- We participated in two events during this year's Iowa City Book Festival. Students in the Saturday translation seminar read their work at Poets on the Patio (south of the UI main library), and Tarek and Dunya read their work in a special bilingual reading at Shambaugh House on Sunday.
- We invited Randa Jarrar, author of A Map of Home and newly installed professor of creative writing at California State University-Fresno, to read from her work and speak to the students.
- We were invited to the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids, which manages the oldest mosque in continuous use in the United States.
- We took a long trip through Iowa countryside to see the Mississippi River at Savanna, Illinois.
- We spent two fantastic days in Chicago shopping, sightseeing, and, yes, writing. (Note to self: Remind participants about airline baggage allowances WELL in advance.)
It's because of the BTL class of 2008 that I'm on Facebook. ("How else will we be able to keep in touch with you?") Two years later, a whole bunch of new Facebook friends are sharing their photos and impressions of their time here. At our graduation ceremony, which was held at Chicago's John Hancock Observatory (in anticipation of Navy Pier fireworks that, unfortunately, were canceled), I gave the advice I've always given to young writers: Write a lot, read a lot, and be part of a supportive writing community. From what I can tell, less than a week after we said goodbye, the community they built -- in Iowa City, Chicago, on Facebook, and who knows where else -- is off to an incredible start.
You can see photos of the BTL class of 2010 and their adventures on the IWP Facebook page. (Hey, if I'm on it, you should be too. Resistance is futile.)
Iraqi-American poet Dunya Mikhail has won the 2010 Arab American Book Award for Diary of a Wave Outside the Sea. Dunya taught at the first Between the Lines session—the one that had to be relocated to Chicago due to the Iowa River flood. Happily, and weather permitting, she will return next month to teach our third group of Between the Lines students at the University of Iowa. Congratulations, Dunya!
Poet Marvin Bell recently stopped by to deliver, among other things, this poster from the early days of the IWP. I especially love how each of the residents got to literally (and literarily) put their stamp on it. It would have been great to get this last year, if only for the 40-year symmetry. What might a 2010 version of this poster look like?
Voting for the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Book of the Decade has begun! And it features two IWP Alum, John Banville and Sebastian Barry!
The leaves in Iowa City begin to change color in September, from dark green to all shades of amber, brown, or red. When the temperature starts to dip a little at night. This is also the time of year when the writers venture out on the first of two travel periods, where they get their choice of three destinations, each led by IWP staff members.
Behind Door #1 = San Francisco, California
Door #2 = New Orleans, Louisiana
And behind Door #3, a road trip down through the land in between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas, billed as a direct-dialogue with land that captured popular imagination as the American West, both as an American ethos and a metaphor for self-reliance; the birthplace of the archetypal cowboy, a figure embedded in the American experience. Artists such as Georgia O’Keefe have celebrated the sense of isolation and independence of the sparsely populated region; a region that inspired the films of John Ford and Sergio Leone; that made Iowan John Wayne a legend; and tracts of interstate that provided a landscape of inspiration for writers up through Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson.[iae|54|l]
Writers who chose Door 3 chose to travel in concert with historic American artistic figures and the works they created. To travel like modern cowboys on the open road, to walk along towering cliffs and through narrow canyons, and listen to the roar of rapids either far below or at arm’s reach. Tabbed to lead the Mountain West experience, I flew with Ge Fei (China), Vicente Groyon (the Philippines), Marius Ivaskevicius (Lithuania), Hagar Peeters (the Netherlands), Kathy White (New Zealand), and Lijia Zhang (China), to Salt Lake City, where our chuckwagon (a 2008 Dodge Minivan) awaited.
“I can drive, anytime, if you’d like,” Marius offered.
After touring Temple Square, and walking a couple miles out of our way for a Thai restaurant Marius read about in a guidebook – which delivered, especially when it came down to the Michael Jackson muzak playing in stereo for atmosphere (there’s nothing quite like eating Moo Yang to Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough on saxophone) – we’d set out from Salt Lake City southbound on I-15, led by a British-accented GPS guide that had tried twice already to steer us incorrectly – Marius, as it turned out, really did have a keen eye for maps.
The interstate cuts Utah diagonally to its southwest corner, close to where Utah, Arizona, and Nevada meet, and at some point between Holden and Sulphurdale the sun started to fall in the west. Like a campfire, the writers huddled around each other in the glow across the back seats, exchanging stories of home, their own personal writing process, and of the places they’d seen featured in the books they’d read. Marius, our map guru, sat up front, pouring through the guidebooks and road maps for sites we just had to pull off the road for. It was hard not to feel a bit like the oddest sort of soccer mom, falling just short of an international “Are We There Yet?” chorus line.
I’d arranged for rooms at a lodge just south of the entrance to Mount Zion National Park, where we’d stay for two nights before moving on to the Grand Canyon. So of course when, on the road, I called ahead to notify the front desk we’d be checking in late, they were afraid to notify me they had no such reservations.
“That’s impossible,” I said. “I made them three weeks ago.”
“Please spell your name for me again,” the man on the phone asked.
Oh boy. “T. i. e. F as in Frank. e. n. T. h. a. l. e. r.”
They had nothing in their system under that name.
“Do you know if anything else nearby is available?”
This was the only point along the entire trip at which the van was silent.
“Not this time of year.”
In a rental car in the middle of Utah, I let the van know plans may not be as such. “Let’s stay in a roadside motel!” Vicente said. “The real American road trip experience.”
I dug through my papers for the confirmation numbers, and Marius, seizing another opportunity to drive, made an offer I still had to refuse. Billboards were a fairly uncommon sight along this vast stretch of Utah landscape, but with Motel ads splayed across exit markers, an excitement rose up from the back for a Best Western or the Spinning Wheel Motel. If we had packed sleeping bags, they would have laid out under the stars, our Dodge Caravan circled around us, celebrating the landscape that influenced artists who influenced them.
Another half hour down the road I called the lodge back with the confirmation numbers (yet a whole other story). As I should have guessed from the start, they’d butchered my name in their computers, swapping both a C and a P in there somewhere. The desk would stay open until we arrived, he said, we were not to worry about our rooms at the lodge. That’s not it at all, I told him. The group looked forward to it.
5 days, 4 states, and 1500 miles of driving later, these 6 writers hiked miles of the American West through 2 national parks; they trekked up the Mountains at Zion, and down the face of the Grand Canyon – Marius dipped his toes into the Colorado River; Lijia taught American idioms to Ge Fei along the trail to the Temple of Sinawava; and at the end of it all, they dropped a total of more than 3,000 feet in elevation. We’d long since shut off our faulty road guide, stopped off the roadside at vermillion rocks that grew out of the ground, at an old Mormon fort, and at a diner for “Ho-made Pie” (where I subsequently left my sunglasses). And somewhere across the Utah and Arizona roads, I should have let Marius take the wheel…what had we to lose?
joseph m. tiefenthaler, program assistant