2013 Burma Tour

January 11th – 17th, 2013, four American writers traveled with the International Writing Program on a reading tour to Burma organized in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. The tour was designed to foster greater understanding and stronger creative ties between the two nations. The participating writers facilitated discussions about writing and literature, led writing workshops, spoke to students and discussed creative writing pedagogy with faculty at Yangon University, Dagon University, and Yangon University of Foreign Languages, and participated in literary exchanges with local writers, journalists, cultural ambassadors, and students. They also met with alumni of IWP's Fall Residency and visited literary and cultural sites, including Shwedagon Pagoda and Kyauk Tan Kyaik Hmaw Wun Pagoda, to gain insight into Burma's history, culture, and literature.

Participating Writers:

Robert Hass

Robert HASS is a poet, essayist, and translator. He was born in San Francisco, California, educated at St. Mary's College of California and Stanford University, and teaches literature at the University of California at Berkeley. His books of poetry include The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems (Ecco Press, 2010); Time and Materials (2007), which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; Sun Under Wood: New Poems (1996); Human Wishes (1989); Praise (1979); and Field Guide (1973), which was selected for the Yale Younger Poets Series. Mr. Hass has translated Japanese haiku poets and the Polish Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997 and has been an active member of the PEN American Center, the international writers' organization concerned with freedom of expression.

Brenda Hillman

Brenda HILLMAN has published eight collections of poetry, all from Wesleyan University Press: White Dress (1985), Fortress (1989),Death Tractates (1992), Bright Existence (1993), Loose Sugar(1997), Cascadia (2001), Pieces of Air in the Epic (2005), andPractical Water (2009), for which she won the LA Times Book Award for Poetry, and three chapbooks: Coffee, 3 A.M. (Penumbra Press, 1982); Autumn Sojourn (Em Press, 1995); and The Firecage(a+bend press, 2000). She has edited an edition of Emily Dickinson's poetry for Shambhala Publications, and, with Patricia Dienstfrey, co-edited The Grand Permisson: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood (2003). In 2010 she co-translated Jeongrye Choi's book of poems, Instances, released by Parlor Press. Recently awarded the Academy of American Poets Chancellors Fellowship, Hillman is the Olivia Filippi Professor of Poetry at Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California. 

Zuwena (

ZZ PACKER is the author of the short story collection, Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, a PEN/Faulkner finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Story, Ploughshares, Zoetrope and The Best American Short Stories 2000 and 2004 and have been read on NPR’s Selected Shorts. Her nonfiction has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, The American Prospect, Essence, O, The Believer and Salon. She was named one of America’s Young Innovators by Smithsonian Magazine and one of America’s Best Young Novelists by Granta. In June, 2010, Packer was selected as one of The New Yorker magazine's "20 under 40" luminary fiction writers. She is also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.  As a professor of Creative Writing, Ms. Packer has taught the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Johns Hopkins, Tulane, Vassar, San Jose State, The Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas State University at San Marcos, the University of Houston, and Stanford.

Christopher Merrill

Christopher MERRILL has published six collections of poetry, including Watch Fire, for which he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; many works of translation and edited volumes, among them, The Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature and From the Faraway Nearby: Georgia O’Keeffe as Icon; and six books of nonfiction, The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer, The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee, Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars, Things of the Hidden God: Journey to the Holy MountainThe Tree of the Doves: Ceremony, Expedition, War, and Self-Portrait with Dogwood among other titles. His work has been translated into nearly forty languages, his honors include a knighthood in arts and letters from the French government, and his journalism appears in many publications. As director of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program, he has undertaken cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries.

IWP Staff Coordinator: Kelly Bedeian

In the News:

  • A blog entry from Ann Stock, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State

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