• The "On Going Home" series offers a glimpse of what returning home means for authors who have spent three months in the U.S. as part of the International Writing Program's Fall Residency. This installment comes to us from Samuel Kolawole:

    On the Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Abuja, two Nigerian men argued over where to put what in the overhead luggage compartment....

  • The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will offer the #Flashwrite Teen Poetry MOOC, its first open online course designed exclusively for teenage students, from March 30-May 3, 2016. Students 13-19 years old are invited to write, share, and discuss poetry with Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduates and fellow teenage writers...

  • Narrative Witness: Indigenous Peoples, Australia-United States, a publication from the International Writing Program, is now available.

    The collection features work created during an online exchange that brought together 32 indigenous writers and photographers living in Australia and the United States in fall 2015. During the two-month exchange, the artists created...

  • By Laura Wang, a current student at the University of Iowa, originally published on laurayingwang.wordpress.comThe Shambaugh House in Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program. It was originally the home of Professor Benjamin F. Shambaugh. After passing away in 1940, he gave his home to the University of Iowa, and the Honors Program moved in....

  • By Alyssa Cokinis, Between the Lines ICRU Fellow

    Between the Lines: Peace and the Writing Experience (BTL) is the International Writing Program’s creative writing and cultural exchange program for teenage writers between the ages of 16 and 19. This summer, two sessions will convene in Iowa City, IA for BTL’s ninth year: Russian/Arabic, which will bring together 32 students from...

  • Written by Karen Villeda, 2015 Fall Residency Outreach Fellow, in November, 2015

    “He always thought of the sea, as ”la mar,” which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had... more
  • The "On Going Home" series offers a glimpse of what returning home means for authors who have spent three months in the U.S. as part of the International Writing Program's Fall Residency. This installment comes to us from Rochelle Potkar:

    Iowa is affixed in my mind as this cool place of beauty, sprawling gold fields, the rippling river blue, the talcum sky above, the bridges...

  • On Thursday January 14th, 2016, IWP joined dozens of literary organizations and hundreds of writers in a Worldwide Reading event, coordinated by the Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin to draw attention to the dire situation of the Palestinian-born poet and curator Ashraf Fayadh.  A long-time resident of Saudi-Arabia, Fayadh was arrested in 2014 for “spreading blasphemous ideas among...

  • The "On Going Home" series offers a glimpse of what returning home means for authors who have spent three months in the U.S. as part of the International Writing Program's Fall Residency. This week's installment comes to us from Raed Anis Al-Jishi:

    I lived in Iowa for more than 12 weeks. It felt like home—a dream home for a writer.

    Libraries with enormous resources. An...

  • By Karen Villeda, 2015 Fall Residency Outreach Fellow

    In the course of the fall 2015 semester, in my role as the International Writing Program’s Outreach Fellow, I developed a web-based project, titled INTERNATIONAL WRITING PROGRAM: WRITING LIVES!

    First off, the site is a documentary combining text with multimedia (images, videos) generated by some of the IWP 2015...


"What is the use of poetry when the world shifts underfoot?"

Source: Princeton Univ. Digital Library
Source: Princeton Univ. Digital Library

With the recent changes in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere, IWP director Christopher Merrill addresses this question by introducing Huffington Post readers to Greek poet Constantine Cavafy.

--Kecia Lynn

Our Woman In Mahalla, Egypt.

In the last weeks we have been at once worried and excited about our friend Ghada AbdAal (IWP 2010), the Egyptian blogger/writer (and pharmacist) from the industrial city of Mahalla, whose intensely political atmosphere couldn’t be more different than that of Iowa City.

This past October Ghada was busy promoting her just-out book I Want to get Married (U Texas Press) based on her super-popular blog devoted to what she called ' the husband problem'. And only just a few weeks ago she happily forwarded news of her brand new Golden Pyramid for Best Comedy TV Script, awarded by the Arabic Media Association:


As of January 25th, though, Ghada's news have only been coming as Facebook posts, in Arabic, so with her permission we had a few translated even though, to paraphrase her, her updates 'don’t represent the majority position'. Clearly, with the situation changing daily, her quotes are a snapshot of a historical moment as much as anything. Here goes:

February 2, 12:54 am:
زفت ما يستاهلش نتحول لعراق تانية عشان خاطره.. قليل من العقل..الدنيا لا تتغير بين يوم و ليلة ..قليل من العقل ..إحقنوا الدماء..إحقنوا الدماء..إحقنوا الدماااءFebruary 2, 11:12 am إرجعوا بيوتكم و احقنوا الدماء.. أقعدوا في بيوتكم يوم الجمعة و إلا هتبقى كارثة محققة..مع الزفت فلان أو ضد الزفت علان ..أي زفت ما يستاهلش نتحول لعراق تانية عشان خاطره.. قليل من العقل..الدنيا لا تتغير بين يوم و ليلة ..قليل من العقل ..إحقنوا الدماء..إحقنوا الدماء..إحقنوا الدماااء Go back home, stop the shedding of blood…stay home on Friday, otherwise it is going to be a real catastrophe. No bastard deserves that we become another Iraq for their sake. Some wisdom: the world is not going to change between day and night, so stop the blood-shedding.


February 2, 8:38 am
إلى القابعين للآن في ميدان التحرير..أنتم لا تتحدثون بإسمي بعد اليوم..لم أنتخب أحد منكم..إسقاط نظام لا يستأهل أن تحرق من أجله البلد..إلي الذين ينتظرون أن تتطابق نهاية الفيلم مع نهاية فيلم تونس..الرجل تحت ضغط دولي و لن يسمح له بالتراجع..بلاش مراهقة و طفولية ..كفاية بأه To those who are no in Tahrir Square, you are not talking in my name anymore, I did not elect any one of you…ending the existing administration now does not justify that the country be burned for it. To those who are waiting for this episode to end like The episode of Tunisia,..the man is under international pressure and he will not be permitted to withdraw, enough of your childish actions.

February 2, 9:25 am
و الجيش واقف يتفرج ..و الجيش واقف يتفرج ..و الجيش واقف يتفرج..الإنقلاب العسكري شغال بالريموت من بعيد و إحنا كنا التروس في المكنة ..خلينا عايشين في ماية البطيخ..إرحموا البلد من عندكم..العند يولد الكفر..مش عشان نسقطه نولع في البلد .. و ياريتنا بنسقطه بجد ..إحنا بنلف و نرجع تاني لنسخة 23 يوليو بس موديل 2011..إرحمونا بأه حرام عليكم..إرحمونا.. The Army is standing watching… The Army is standing watching…the Military uprising is controlled by remote control from a distance and we were the gears of this machine. Let us stay living by the water of melons… have mercy on this country from your side, being stubborn will lead to God’s denial. It is not reasonable to burn the country for the sake of letting him fall…but we wish he falls we keep running in circles and come back to repeat July 23 but 2011 style …have mercy on us….please have mercy on us [….]

Among the scores of other interesting commentaries on to the situation in Egypt: those by the novelist Alaa Aswany (The Yacoubian Building, 2002/6) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/profiles/alaa-al-aswany-like-being-in-love-literary-reflections-on-the-revolution-2201506.html, the indispensable daily parsing of original Arabic-press material by Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan, on his blog /Informed Comment/ http://www.juancole.com/ and The Guardian’s survey of a score of Arabic-language writers on the situation in Tunis and Maghreb earlier this winter at http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/after-tunisia-arabic-writers-reflect

Jaipur Literature Festival :: International Connections

IWP writer Chandrahas Choudhury at Prairie Lights Bookstore
IWP writer Chandrahas Choudhury at Prairie Lights Bookstore

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!

Further reading:

Writing outside the comfort zone: Haiti

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.

2011...and counting

Let's get this new year underway with a frank interview Helon Habila (IWP 2006 and New Symposium 2007 on Justice) gave The Daily Independent while 'back home' in Nigeria. Among the topics: how to grow local writing. And another: Habila's 2010 novel Oil for Water, written in the US but set in the Niger delta's oil fields. An extract was located courtesy the brilliant Chimurenga Online; an informative review is here.

Hear ye! Hear ye!

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.

BTL, version 3.0

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.)

--Kecia Lynn

Between the Lines instructor wins award


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!

--Kecia Lynn

Art blast from the far past

IWP 1969 broadside
IWP 1969 broadside

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?

--Kecia Lynn


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