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    Poet Allen Ginsberg, a leading member of the Beat Generation, lamented the fact that few people have read all of Song of Myself. “How many here have read Whitman? Everybody. How many here  have read a little Whitman, just a little. And how many have read Whitman extensively? Has anybody read all through Whitman ever? Or, let’s say, all through “Song of Myself”? – Yeah, it’s...
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    Writer, thinker, and University of Iowa Professor Marilynne Robinson will read and answer student questions while in UAE.

    January 11-14, 2014, two Iowa-based authors, Pulitzer Prize-winner Marilynne Robinson and poet and non-fiction writer Christopher Merrill, will visit cultural and educational institutions in the United Arab Emirates to give readings and engage with...

  • [Click to Enlarge] Every Atom is the first Massive Open Online Course to be offered by the University of Iowa.

    The International Writing Program (IWP) is delighted to announce The University of Iowa’s first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course): Every Atom: Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself, now open for enrollment.  The six-week course (February 17-March 29, 2014) offers...

  • All photos by IWP Program Officer Kelly Bedeian.[Click to Enlarge] Ghada's 10 year old brother addresses the writers. November 30-December 8, 2013 an International Writing Program (IWP) reading tour visited Sudan and its southern neighbour, South Sudan (which gained independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011), to give readings, lead writing workshops, and mentor and engage students...
  • (Click to Enlarge) UI Prof Alan MacVey and fellow Book Wings director Carol MacVey at a recent Book Wings production meeting. Theatre fans, you’re in for a treat. In March 2014 Book Wings, the bilingual collaborative theatre program IWP launched in 2012 in partnership with the Moscow Art Theatre, will debut 12 new short plays commissioned from playwrights in Iraq, Russia...
  • A guest post from Ericka Raber, Research & Instruction Librarian, University of Iowa

    (Click to Enlarge) Russian IWP alumnus Andrei Bychkov with UI librarian Ericka Raber. In May 2013, I traveled to Russia and the Baltics on behalf of The University of Iowa Libraries. The trip—similar to those my colleagues Tim Shipe and Lisa Gardinier...
  • (Click to Enlarge) Corinne N’Guessan (far left) on stage in Ali Al Saeed's “A Sheep Called Marlon.” We admit, there’s a little bit of empty nest syndrome going around Shambaugh House now that the 2013 Fall Residency is over. The last weeks were packed with activity, including the annual Harvest Dinner hosted by the Dane family at their farm in honor of IWP writers, bringing together 150...
  • As the IWP mourns the loss of alumnus Festus Iyayi (IWP '90), deceased 12 November 2013, fellow writer Niyi Osundare (IWP '88) offers this tribute:

    And so Nigeria killed Festus Iyayi. . . .

    He was one of our very best: creative, energetic, dependable, and forthright. We were there in 1980 (with the then young and irrepressible Tunde Fatunde) when what we call ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) today was in its infancy. Iyayi served the Union tirelessly and loyally, becoming its President in 1986, by popular acclamation. I worked with Iyayi, and saw him at close quarters. Fearless but fair, courageous but compassionate, demanding but decent, Iyayi was a great leader and an even greater follower, the kind who pressed on when others were seized by trepidation and despair. There is a painful logic in the fact he met his death while on a vital errand for our beloved ASUU.

    Iyayi was a Balogun of the Barricades in our struggle against military dictatorship and our battle for Human Rights. He gave so generously, so valuably of himself and his inexhaustible physical and mental resources. Like the great Nelson Mandela, he could have said, without any fear of contradiction, that the struggle was his life.

    All these virtues informed every line he wrote, from creative works to occasional interventions in the media. Art for Human Sake; clear illumination of the past; sensitive appreciation of the present; intelligent apprehension and anticipation of the future: Iyayi is a writer with the answerable vision. He chose his heroes very carefully, very judiciously. He ridiculed tyrants out of their despotic inclinations, challenged the unaccountably wealthy to show the source of their loot; urged the pauperized and the marginalized to interrogate the grounds for their plight instead of merely collapsing under its weight. Iyayi's blood boiled at the sight of injustice. Whenever he raised his voice it was to denounce the monsters that make progress impossible by laying us low. Iyayi challenged, then redefined our concept of heroism, for he knew that many of those propped up as heroes are nothing short of heinous villains; that many of our so-called giants are smaller than ants. His novel on the Nigerian civil war is never ambiguous as to who the real heroes of that war are, and where to look for the villains.

    For many of his readers, Violence remains his all-time classic. In this unforgettable novel, Iyayi invites us to a Fanonian aetiology of violence, its actuation, and awful ramifications. In this heart-rendering story, we meet a millionaire who never labours for his money but uses it to take advantage of the moneyless; we meet young people so desperate, so poor – no, impoverished – that they are forced to sell their very blood for money for the very basic essentials of life. We encounter the uncommon courage and stoicism of the poor and lowly and the callous bestiality of the rich and powerful. In the annals of African fiction, only Ousmane Sembene’s God’s Bit of Wood and Ngugi wa Thion’go’s Petals of Blood have dissected Africa’s social reality in such gripping detail and with such committed panache. I love all Iyayi’s works with a passion, but for me, Violence remains for him what Things Fall Apart is for Chinua Achebe: a magnificent story ennobled by unforced lyricism and spontaneous narrativity. Violence marked a new accent in Nigerian fiction when it appeared in the late 1970’s. In many ways, it is the harbinger for the likes of E.E.Sule’s Sterile Sky published about three decades later.

    Personally, to encounter Festus was to get ready to fall in love with him. Natural. Unabashedly, unapologetically natural. Humorous and always loaded with funny anecdotes, Festus took the sting out of the scorpion of the Nigerian jungle by laughing and helping others to laugh at its countless foibles. Victim of incarceration, unwarranted sack, vilification, and other abuses, he was always ready to forge ahead. Utterly disenchanted with Nigeria’s present, he never lost hope in her future. Festus was a comrade who was also a friend, a fellow-traveller and a brother.

    And so Nigeria killed Iyayi. Nigeria, that dragon which feeds so insatiably upon the most precious of its own eggs. We lost a gallant fighter and great patriot. Terrible. Unspeakably terrible. Behold the terrifying irony: the patriot who labored so tirelessly to rid his country of violence has become a victim of her egregious violence.

    Yet another chapter in our running saga of waste. . . .

    Adieu, brave comrade. Nigeria’s wasters are still here, Awaiting Court-Marshall.

    Niyi Osundare
    New Orleans, Nov. 15, 2013

    As the IWP mourns the loss of alumnus Festus Iyayi (IWP '90), deceased 12 November 2013, fellow writer Niyi Osundare (IWP '88) offers this tribute:

    And so Nigeria killed Festus Iyayi. . . .

    He was one of our very best: creative, energetic, dependable, and forthright. We were there in 1980 (with the then young and irrepressible Tunde Fatunde) when what we call ASUU (...

  • This Friday, November 1, 2013, 12pm-1:30pm, join in the tradition as 34 writers from 31 countries in residence at the International Writing Program (IWP) for the past ten weeks come together in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library (123 S. Linn St) to share highlights, memories, and impressions of Iowa and the United States. Pizza will be served.

    The event, one of the last public Iowa City events of the 2013 IWP Fall Residency, is held annually as a way for the international writers to reflect on their time in Iowa, their mid-residency travel to New Orleans and San Francisco, as well as individual trips to speak and share their work at universities, theatre companies, and literary organizations across the nation, including University of California Berkeley, Yale University, the Portland Stage Company (Maine), and The Pittsburgh City of Asylum.

    Many of the writers have been blogging about their U.S. experience, and have contributed pieces to newspaper opinion pages in the U.S. and abroad, including the Iowa City Press Citizen (Is America edging closer toward Orwellian 'Newspeak'? by Amanda Lee Koe); The Lens (New Orleans: We know what we think of tourists; what do they think of us? by Craig Cliff and Roland Rugero); and the Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai, India: The World in a Grain of Sand by Sridala Swami) and will add to these reflections in this public discussion.

    On Monday, the IWP writers, who arrived in Iowa City in August for the ten-week Fall Residency, will travel to Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York City before many return to their home countries on November 12, 2013.

    The IWP Fall Residency is organized in partnership with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and supported by grants from many international private and governmental agencies. Alumni of the program include two Nobel Prize in Literature laureates: Mo Yan (China, IWP 2004) and Orhan Pamuk (Turkey, IWP 1985).

    This Friday, November 1, 2013, 12pm-1:30pm, join in the tradition as 34 writers from 31 countries in residence at the International Writing Program (IWP) for the past ten weeks come together in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library (123 S. Linn St) to share highlights, memories, and impressions of Iowa and the United States. Pizza will be served.

    The...

  • A special guest post by Niyi Osundare.

    Eni re dara ile                 A splendid man has joined the earth

    Gbee gbee, ofere gbee   Carry him, carry him, good wind, carry him

    Kofi loo, o digba              Kofi has gone, adieu

    Gbee gbee gbeee             Carry him, carry him, good wind, carry him

    Ofere gbeeeeeeee            Carry him, carry him, good...

  • 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...

  • 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 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...

  • (Click to Enlarge) Sampling food truck offerings in New Orleans: frog legs, alligator on a stick... (Photo: Patricia Portela) Soon after arriving in Iowa City in late August, IWP fall residents were given the choice of visiting either New Orleans or San Francisco during the mid-residency travel period—then five weeks away. For many it was a tough decision.

    “The Beat Generation,” said...

  • (Click to Enlarge) Whiti Hereaka (New Zealand) reads to a packed crowd at Shambaugh House. The 2013 Fall Residency is in full swing. What’s going on?  A lot.  In Iowa City, writers are engaging the local community, University of Iowa faculty and students, and each other in conversations about literature, film, censorship, and even the politics of participating in a program like the...
  • 387 writers from 49 countries applied for the fall 2013 Advanced Fiction Seminar. Fifteen writers have been selected to participate in IWP’s fall Advanced Fiction Seminar, a free seven-session online fiction-writing course offered through IWP Distance Learning. The course drew a record number of applicants; by the time the call for applications closed on September 6th, 387 writers had...
  • The IWP was deeply saddened by the recent passing of 2007 alumnus Vijay Nair. In this guest post, KR Usha (IWP '11, India) offers her remembrances.
     

    Why don’t you speak to Vijay Nair, your fellow Bangalore writer, the people at the US Consulate in Chennai suggested after answering my many questions as patiently as they could. Here, they said, handing me a sheet of paper with his phone number and email. I was preparing to leave for the International Writing Program in Iowa City in August of 2011 and apart from practical tips, wanted some reassurance that I was doing the right thing in making this three-month diversion in a strange place, and among strangers. “It will be the experience of a lifetime,” I recall Vijay telling me, “it is up to you to take as much as you want from the program. You could use the time to shut yourself up in your room and write or get out and get a slice of American life … you will meet amazing writers and read their work, make fast friends and have wonderful conversations, and don’t worry, you’ll have enough money and enough warm clothes.” 

    On my return from the program – after a happy three months – I met Vijay Nair for the first and only time at a dinner organised by a fellow writer to celebrate her newly published novel. In person Vijay turned out to be as warm, friendly, and candid as he had sounded on the phone. We swapped stories about the program, I met his editor wife Dipti with whom I had corresponded over email earlier. Later I learnt that we were on the same college group, Vijay having graduated a few years after me.  His classmates have left warm tributes to him on the Facebook page, mourning the loss of a friend whom they remembered from college as soft spoken and a gentleman, simultaneously serious and funny, and a budding poet whose talent was evident right then.

    The literary fraternity in Bangalore was shocked and saddened to read in the papers that Vijay Nair had passed away suddenly of cardiac arrest on Friday, September 6th. A writer of many talents, Vijay was a playwright, a novelist, a writer of non-fiction, and a critic. He had his own theatre group, Still Waters, which staged plays and conducted workshops, and I recall he held several creative writing workshops at the British Library. His workshops with children and young adults particularly endeared him to his young charges. He had collaborated on the screenplay of an indie film, a telling portrait of Bangalore, the IT city.  Clearly, here was a writer just beginning to travel simultaneously  on several roads, one of the few blessed with talent and ability in many literary forms, of which we had seen the merest efflorescence.  RIP Vijay Nair.

    The IWP was deeply saddened by the recent passing of 2007 alumnus Vijay Nair. In this guest post, KR Usha (IWP '11, India) offers her remembrances. 

    Why don’t you speak to Vijay Nair, your fellow Bangalore writer, the people at the US Consulate in Chennai suggested after answering my many questions as patiently as they could. Here, they said, handing me a sheet of paper with his phone number...

  • A portrait of Community Engagement Fellow Portela by Afonso Cruz  Ever wonder what the actual day-to-day existence of an International Writing Program (IWP) fall resident is like, living and writing in this Iowa City of Literature?

    Well, now IWP Community Engagement Fellow Patrícia Portela  gives you a chance to find out on a new blog, Seeds of Culture: field notes from the...

  • Yemeni writer and filmmaker Sawsan Al-Areeqe taking questions after the cinématheque screening. “Living in a closed society is problematic for men, but for women it’s a killer,” Sawsan Al-Areeqe  told the audience after Wednesday night’s screening of her two short films, Prohibited and Photo. The screening, held on the University of Iowa campus, was part of the...
  • Ugandan writer Oscar Ranzo (at right) with fellow IWP residents at the University of Iowa President's block party. Ugandan fiction writer Oscar Ranzo’s journey to Iowa lasted more than 36 hours, but he could still be found Sunday taking part in a walking tour of downtown Iowa City with other International Writing Program fall residents, visiting the farmer's market, calculating the dent...
  • The 2013 cohort includes the 1st-ever fall residents from Bahrain, Burundi, and Yemen. Later this week, 34 writers arrive in Iowa City to participate in the 47th annual International Writing Program (IWP) Fall Residency. The 2013 fall residents hail from 31 countries and territories and every continent except Antarctica. They include the program’s first-ever...

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