• 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...


Of the decade...


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!

Local Hero

When President Obama came to Iowa City yesterday to mark the passing of his new health insurance reform bill, he not only cleverly used Prairie Lights Books as an example of a small business about to get a new tax break to keep its employees covered. He also had the wits to go in and actually purchase some books. At first he seemed to stick to a defense theme—a Star Wars pop-up book—but then the word came that his two daughters got some lit as well.

Jan Weissmiller, the co-owner of the local cult book store Prairie Lights, greets a hot customer.
Jan Weissmiller, the co-owner of the local cult book store Prairie Lights, greets a hot customer.

In addition to above-fold in the NYTimes, the story also made overseas news

IWP Fall Residency 2009 Pt. III: All Too Short A Term

All too often writers-in-residence at the IWP have to leave us early. In 2009, Hanaa Hijazi and Fflur Dafydd had to say their goodbyes all too soon, but with the help of fellow-participants, left us with one incredible music video!

Continental Aside

Recent articles on African literature feature the names of prominent IWP alumni:

A Guardian blog post mentioning Veronique Tadjo (Cote d'Ivoire, 2006).

And an article in Al Ahram on the former director of the African Writers Series, which includes the work of Bessie Head (Botswana, 1977) and Cyprian Ekwensi (Nigeria, 1974).

In other news: On a reading tour of Kenya this past summer, the IWP group led writing workshops for primary and secondary students in the Somali refugee camp Dadaab. American writers Tom Sleigh, Terese Svoboda, and Eliot Weinberger conducted impromptu writing excercises with nearly 200 students. You can read the students' pieces here.

IWP Fall Residency 2009 Pt. II: On The Dusty Road

Marius and Kathy at one of the many breathtaking stops.
Marius and Kathy at one of the many breathtaking stops.

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.

Ge Fei and Lijia hiking at Zion National Park.
Ge Fei and Lijia hiking at Zion National Park.

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.

The Gang at Sunset.
The Gang at Sunset.

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.

The South Kaibab Trail. Grand Canyon. 2 miles in. 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The South Kaibab Trail. Grand Canyon. 2 miles in. 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

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?

At the rim to the Grand Canyon...where's Kathy???
At the rim to the Grand Canyon...where's Kathy???

joseph m. tiefenthaler, program assistant

Arabic lit translation: a Cairo perspective

The indispensible Common Review links to a long piece in The National (out of Abu Dhabi) on the distinguished literary translator Humphrey Davies and his perspective on the history, the skills, the politics and the special concerns that arise in translating out of the Arabic. It's also interesting to hear that a new academic translation program is opening up in Cairo.

...and one does get an extra rise out of seeing two of our Egyptian alumni --Ahmad Alaidy (IWP '04) and Hamdy el- Gazzar (IWP '07) --listed among those Davies has recently translated.....

natasa d.

IWP Fall Residency 2009 Pt. I: The Landscape

As if winter weather advisories weren’t enough to remind us of the spoils of January, bloggers web-wide dot the i’s: inundated with Best Of lists, and anticipations of the coming State of the Union address, January doesn’t seem to exist much at all except to provide a month for looking ahead, as well as behind. And with old man winter comfortably settled across the Midwest, we look back on the year, and the residency, that was.

Part 1: The Landscape

Writers gathered in front of Shambaugh House

One week into the University’s academic semester, 36 writers from 29 countries flew halfway across the world to a region known to some as fly-over country, and others a hub of international letters.

There’s a thirty minute drive from the airport to Iowa City, on an interstate colored with near-harvest crops and prairie grasses, that for many marks the beginning to an 80-day residency one writer remarked as “truly a paradise for creative people.” Maybe he’d seen Field of Dreams. Maybe not.

The road itself isn’t altogether smooth, patched with tar in the places where the road cracked, and those sorts of bumps aren’t kind to the overall experience of riding in University vehicles. As if the twenty hours of travel weren’t enough, the high ride and easy shake of a maxivan, a different beast unto itself, isn’t exactly red carpet limo service. But then again, neither is the Cedar Rapids Airport.

Arrivals funnel through the airport’s lone terminal, and through baggage claim about the size of an end zone.

“Is this Iowa City?”

There’s heartbreak in answering this question, and a lot of heavy luggage to carry around (unless it’s been lost).

“We’ll be there soon…”

This year, Iraqi poet Soheil Najm, on his second day of travel to the states, walked out of the terminal in a pressed suit and leather shoes, like he’d only come from as far away as Chicago. His original flight had to be rescheduled due to the funeral procession of an Imam through the streets of Baghdad, causing city-wide gridlock, and he had an overnight in Istanbul before finally landing stateside in Detroit, and traveling further into the Midwest. I had Andreas Weber, novelist from Austria, along for the ride. He’d arrived that morning, sure enough, to find his luggage delayed, and looked for help at his carrier’s desk while I tended to Soheil.

“This is Iowa City?” he asked, and I had to tell him.

He took this, and his luggage, in stride, and went for a cigarette.

On the ride in, the road was pitch dark, and I told him what the landscape looked like during the day. The river to our right. Corn and soybean fields. And Andreas had a question for Soheil.

“You are a poet. I must ask what you think about this war?”

We drove the rest of the way in kind, an Austrian novelist and Iraqi poet in energetic conversation on the current situation in Baghdad, oblivious to the unsettling road bumps, and pitch black view. Hitting the ground running.

A day's hike through Redbird Farms

The early weeks of the residency saw a flurry of welcoming events and receptions more or less along the same lines, and across the backyards of countless introductions, the writers started coming alive as we now remember them; personalities, friends, citizens of the world, and charges of intellectual dynamite. Whether suited in full regalia at the home of IWP Director Christopher Merrill, or in hiking boots through the paths of Redbird Farms’ back country, the writers matched local enthusiasm for their mere presence stride for stride. As the weeks went on, a tightly-knit community formed, yielding one-of-a-kind moments that made it a true paradise to be their hosts. Even in maxivans.

joseph m. tiefenthaler

Comp Lit

Todays' ice and snow outside my window make the peacock-rich hot-pink Jaipur Literary Festival seem particularly appealing. Available more immediately at hand, meanwhile, is Wapsipinicon Almanac, hand-edited, typeset in lead, resolutely local, undistracted.


A campaign by Wieden+Kennedy for Levi's, this highlights footage of Walt Whitman from the Walt Whitman Archive.


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