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Ida Beam

Kwame Dawes Hosts Kofi Awoonor Memorial Reading

Poet Kwame Dawes will receive the 2013 Paul Engle Prize during his visit to the University of Iowa.
Poet Kwame Dawes will receive the 2013 Paul Engle Prize during his visit to the University of Iowa.
October 10th-14th, 2013 Poet, editor, playwright, professor, actor, and musician Kwame Dawes, winner of an Emmy and a Guggenheim and author of sixteen books of poetry, including an anthology of reggae poetry, will engage with the University of Iowa community as a 2013 Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor. Born in Ghana and raised in exile in Jamaica and the United Kingdom, Dawes is a 1986 alumnus of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP) Fall Residency. He is the Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska where he edits the literary magazine Prairie Schooner.

(Click to Enlarge) Ghanaian poet and writer Kofi Awoonor, whose poetry will be featured in a memorial reading on Monday.
(Click to Enlarge) Ghanaian poet and writer Kofi Awoonor, whose poetry will be featured in a memorial reading on Monday.
Dawes is also the cousin of celebrated Ghanaian poet and writer Kofi Awoonor, long-time friend of the IWP, who was among those killed in the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. On Monday, October 14th at 11am CDT, Dawes will host a live-stream memorial reading of Awoonor’s poetry in front of a live audience on the University of Iowa campus (430 Clinton St). Listeners around the world are encouraged to follow along and to submit questions via Twitter @UIIWP #Awoonor.

While in Iowa City, Dawes will also receive the 2013 Paul Engle Prize from the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization. Established in 2011, the award honors an individual who, like IWP co-founder Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature who has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts.

Some opportunities to catch Kwame in Iowa City:

 Kwame Dawes reading "The Weaver Bird" by Kofi Awoonor on the PBS NewsHour:

Dawes will also visit University of Iowa poetry and postcolonial studies classes and take part in a literary round-table and Q&A about literary journal publishing and literary festivals (Dawes co-founded the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica) with students at the Magid Undergraduate Writing Center.

 The Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program was established in 1978-79 with the income from a bequest to the university by the late Ida Cordelia Beam of Vinton, Iowa.

Kwame Dawes Named 2013 Paul Engle Prize Winner

A guest post by John Kenyon, Executive Director, Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

IOWA CITY - Kwame Dawes (IWP '86), Chancellor Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, has been named the second recipient of the Paul Engle Prize, presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization.

The prize, established in 2011, honors an individual who, like the late Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts.

Dawes will receive the prize, which includes a special plaque and $10,000, during a special ceremony as part of the Iowa City Book Festival on Oct. 12. That day has been designated “Paul Engle Day” in Iowa The event will be at noon in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber, and is free and open to the public.

Dawes teaches post-colonial literature and theory, African-American literature, and Caribbean literature at Nebraska, and is a member of the creative writing program. He also serves as the Glenna Luschel Editor of Prairie Schooner an 85-year-old quarterly journal, and founding Series Editor of the African Poetry Book Fund and Series.

Dawes was born in Ghana, raised in exile in Jamaica and the United Kingdom, and first came to the United States as a participant in the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP) in 1986.

In nominating Dawes for the Engle Prize, IWP Associate Director Hugh Ferrer wrote, “In the intervening years, (Dawes) has become arguably the leading creative force of Caribbean literature, helping in all aspects of his activities to create and promote the poetry and Poetics of the trans-Atlantic African diaspora. His generosity of spirit within the literary world was reflected in his winning of the 2012 Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers award; and his immense creative capacities were acknowledged last year by the Guggenheim Foundation.”

Dawes remembers meeting Engle and his wife, Hualing Nieh Engle, in 1986, as a participant in the International Writing Program.

“I felt welcomed, but above all, I felt challenged by the vision, ambition and generosity of Paul Engle,” he said. “It would have been impossible for me not to seal that memory in my mind for future reference. I have spent the rest of my time since then being a writer and being an advocate for writers and for writing.”

Anny D. Curtius, Associate Professor of Francophone Studies and Co-Director of the Caribbean, Diaspora and Atlantic Studies Program at the University of Iowa, served as a member of the selection panel. Of Dawes she said, “It is worth emphasizing that he indefatigably works for the betterment of communities, and being closely involved with the South Sumter Resource Center that help youth at risk, and spearheading a special Rites of Passage Program for minority youths, are significant examples of such a commitment.”

Dawes said he believes his task is to find ways to make the business of writing poems, novels, stories and essays and sharing them with world a right that all societies should have regardless of their history or circumstance.

"This is why this award means so much to me," he said. "It is in the name of a man who was clearly a maverick, and yet someone who understood community and who valued writers.”

The Paul Engle Prize is made possible through the generous support of the City of Coralville, which soon will be home to 11 permanent sculptures with artistic and literary ties to Iowa. The sculptures all have ties to work found in The Iowa Writers’ Library, housed in the Coralville Marriott, which features about 800 books written by former students, graduates and faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

The prize first was awarded in 2011, and James Alan McPherson – a longtime instructor at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Elbow Room – was the recipient.

Paul Engle (Oct. 12, 1908 - March 22, 1991), though best remembered as the long-time director of the Writers’ Workshop and co-founder of the UI’s International Writing Program, also was a well-regarded poet, playwright, essayist, editor and critic.

Dawes will be in Iowa City for five days as an Ida Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor. Public events include a reading of his poetry and a live-streamed memorial reading in honor of his uncle, celebrated Ghanaian writer Kofi Awoonor, killed in the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya. More information about Dawes' visit available on IWP's website.

A Marathon Week: Hisham Matar plus Global Express and More!

It’s a whirlwind of literary events this week. In addition to the regular schedule, we have a series of public events centered around Hisham Matar’s visit. The New York Times best-selling novelist is in Iowa City this week as the 2012 Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor.

On Thursday, September 21st, tune in at noon to hear Matar interviewed on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River. You can also catch the interview Matar gave on The Lit Show the day he arrived.

On Friday, join Jeffrey Paparoa Holman (New Zealand), Lin Chun Ying (Taiwan), Jana Beňová (Slovakia) and Chan Chi Tak (Hong Kong) for a panel on “The Currents of Migration,” Iowa City Public Library, Meeting Room A, noon-1pm. Pizza will be served.

Then at 2pm, after the Migration panel, join Hisham Matar for an interactive discussion and Q&A session hosted by The Writing University.  Questions can be sent ahead of time to http://www.writinguniversity.org/page/submit-a-question.

Join our Facebook Event for a complete list of public events linked to Hisham Matar’s visit.

Later Friday afternoon, stop by the Shambaugh House for a reading with Andrei Khadanovich (Belarus) and Alina Dadaeva (Uzbekistan), 5-6pm. Light refreshments will be served.

On Saturday, don’t miss a special reading with Israeli playwright and IWP alumnus Motti Lerner, Shambaugh House, 2-3pm.

Join us again on Sunday, when Abdullah Thabit (Saudi Arabia) and Christopher Mlalazi (Zimbabwe) read with Writers’ Workshop student Anna Morrison at Prairie Lights, 4-5pm.

Finish the week off with some live theatre. Sunday at 7:30pm it’s Global Express, featuring staged dramatic readings of work by Pandora (Burma), Luis Bravo (Uruguay), Christopher Mlalazi (Zimbabwe), Gulala Nouri (Iraq), Bilal Tanweer (Pakistan), Choi Myoung Sook (South Korea), Taleb Al Refai (Kuwait), Dimitris Lyacos (Greece/Italy), and TJ Dema (Botswana). Join us for an evening of live entertainment as the work of these writers is brought to life by University of Iowa Theatre Arts students in Theatre B of the University of Iowa Theatre Building (200 North Riverside Dr.) Global Express is the last public event before the mid-residency travel period takes the writers off to New Orleans and San Francisco.

For those of you who missed last week’s riveting panel on “Writing in a Country at War,” more than fifty people packed into the Gerber Lounge in the UI English-Philosophy Building to hear IWP writers offer their views on the writer’s role and responsibilities. Panelist Yaghoub Yadali (Iran) observed that “If Tolstoy had died in the Crimean War, War and Peace would never have been written. But if he had not fought in the war, there would have been no War and Peace to write.” Writers also grappled with the idea of exploring the dark side of human nature and the relevance of the act of writing in times of war. During the Q&A, Taleb Al Refai (Kuwait) recounted a startling encounter with two Iraqi soldiers captured by a friend during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait that brought audience members to tears. Watch for the papers to be made available in the IWP archives in the future.

For updates on this week’s panel and other events, follow us on Twitter and visit us on Facebook. Hope to see you soon!

Celebrated Novelist Hisham Matar to Visit the University of Iowa as an Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor

We are pleased to announce that beginning Tuesday, September 18th, the University of Iowa will welcome New York Times bestselling novelist Hisham Matar, this year’s Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor, to Iowa City for four days of literary events.

While at the University of Iowa, Matar will visit classes, discuss translation and international literature with residents at the International Writing Program, and meet with undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty from the University’s various writing programs.

The public will also have a chance to get to know Matar through a series of free events. On Wednesday, September 19, at 11:00am, Matar will give a craft talk, "Never Believe What a Writer Says," to be followed by a Q&A session in the Frank Conroy Reading Room, Dey House, 507 N. Clinton.

Wednesday evening, at 7:00pm, he will read from his latest novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, at Prairie Lights Bookstore, 15 S. Dubuque. For those of you outside Iowa City, the reading will be streamed live by The Writing University.

When a loved one “disappears,” how does that absence shape the lives of those who are left? 

Matar was born in New York City to Libyan parents and raised in Tripoli and Cairo. His father, once a United Nations diplomat, was kidnapped in Cairo in 1990, managed to have two letters smuggled out of a Libyan prison in 1996, and was last seen alive in 2002.

Though certain elements of Anatomy of a Disappearance echo the author's life story, Matar emphasizes that it is a work of fiction and is not autobiographical. The novel was named one of the best books of the year by publications including The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, The Independent, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Toronto Sun, and The Irish Times. The Washington Post hailed it as “A haunting novel, exquisitely written and psychologically rich,” and the New York Times called it “Studded with little jewels of perception.”

Matar’s debut novel, In the Country of Men, won the 2007 Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best First Book award for Europe and South Asia, the 2007 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, the Italian Premio Vallombrosa Gregor von Rezzori, and the inaugural Arab American Book Award, and has been translated into 22 languages. His stories, essays, and articles have been published in The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New York Times and many other publications. Matar now lives in London and is an associate professor at Barnard College in New York City.

Other events open to the public include a brown bag lunch to discuss global human rights and social justice issues with the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, as part of their Careers for Change lecture series, Wednesday, September 19th at 1:00pm in the POROI conference room, Bowman House, 230 N. Clinton St.

On Friday, September 21st at 2:00pm, Matar will participate in an interactive discussion and Q&A session hosted by The Writing University.  Questions can be sent ahead of time to: http://www.writinguniversity.org/page/submit-a-question

You will also be able to hear Matar interviewed on Iowa Public Radio’s program River to River and on University Radio KRUI’s The Lit Show. We are delighted to welcome Matar to Iowa City and we hope many of you will join us at the public events!

For daily updates on Hisham Matar’s visit, stop by our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

The Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professorships Program was established in 1978-79 with the income from a bequest to the University by the late Ida Cordelia Beam of Vinton.