CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: May 13, 1999
A Community of Writers released by UI Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa Each year it seems, a University
of Iowa Writers Workshop graduate achieves some new level of public
acclaim for literature, and with each accolade, the graduate enriches the
programs 63-year history.
In a new book, "A Community of Writers: Paul
Engle and the Iowa Writers Workshop," published by the UI Press,
editor Robert Dana collected recollections and descriptions that mingle myth
and history with style and grace and no small amount of humor in painting
a historical portrait of the first-in-the-nation program.
The book includes writing by luminary graduates and
faculty members including Kurt Vonnegut, Donald Justice, Robert Bly, Marvin
Bell, W. D. Snodgrass, Philip Levine, Charles Wright, Hualing Nieh Engle and
Gail Godwin. Their pieces range from reminiscences of student life, to portraits
of great literary figures who passed through the workshop -- Dylan Thomas,
John Berryman and Robert Lowell among them.
"We do not pretend to have produced the writers
included in this book. Their talent was inevitably shaped by the genes rattling
in ancestral closets. We did give them a community in which to try out the
quality of their gift," said Paul Engle, who led the workshop from the
early '40s through the late '60s.
With these words, which were written long before the
Iowa Writers Workshop became world famous, much imitated and academically
rich, Engle captured the spirit behind his beloved workshop.
Today there are numerous writers workshops,
many of them founded and directed by graduates of the UI workshop. But when
Engle returned to his alma mater to lead the workshop, it was a novelty. His
irrepressible nature, conviction and reputation as a poet elevated the stature
of the Iowa Writers Workshop.
Since the UI awarded its first creative-writing masters
degree in 1936 -- to Engle, no less -- world-famous authors including John
Irving, Robert Bly, Jane Smiley, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Flannery O'Connor,
Raymond Carver, Margaret Walker and Rita Dove have attended the workshop.
More than 25 alumni and faculty have won the Pulitzer Prize -- America's most
prestigious literary prize -- including current alumni faculty members Jorie
Graham and James Alan McPherson.
In the 1990s workshop graduates captured nine of the
20 Pulitzers awarded for fiction of poetry, including 1999 winners Mark Strand
and Michael Cunningham.
In addition to editing "A
Community of Writers," Danas most recent books of poetry are "Hello,"
"Stranger," and "Yes, Everything." Dana is a 1954 UI Writers
Workshop alumnus who taught for 40 years at Cornell College, Mt. Vernon. He
retired in 1994. He has received National Endowment fellowships, the Delmore
Schwartz Memorial Poetry Award in 1989 and a Pushcart Prize in 1996.
"A Community of Writers," (304 pages, $17.95
paperback, ISBN 0-87745-668-2) is available at bookstores or directly from
the UI Press by calling 1-800-621-2736.