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Release: Nov. 19, 1999

UI Writers' Workshop faculty Heather McHugh, Chris Offutt to read

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Heather McHugh will read from her poetry, and Chris Offutt from his fiction, at a reading sponsored by the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop at 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3 in Shambaugh Auditorium of the UI Main Library.

Both McHugh and Offutt are currently visiting faculty members at the Writers’ Workshop and both have recently published new books.

"The Father of the Predicaments" is McHugh’s 10th book. Her collection "Hinge & Sign: Poems 1968-1993" was a National Book Award finalist and chosen as Best Book of the Year by the New York Times and Publishers Weekly.

In a review of "Hinge & Sign," Linda Gregerson wrote in the New York Times Book Review, "If ours were a more reverent country than the one John Ashbery and Heather McHugh gorgeously exemplify, these two would long ago have been made to endure the title of national treasures. For the treasure we too long have taken for granted -- our fractious, healing, double-dealing, on-the-make vernacular -- is nowhere so richly turned to account as in the poems they have been giving us for years."

McHugh’s other works include "Shades," "To the Quick," a collection of critical essays titled "Broken English: Poetry and Partiality," a translation of Blaga Dimitrova’s "Because the Sea is Black," and a translation of Jean Follain’s "D’Apres Tout."

Winner of the Folger Library’s 1998 O.B. Hardison, Jr. Poetry Prize, McHugh is Milliman Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Washington Master of Fine Arts program, and she was recently elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is currently working on a set of translations of poems by Paul Celan.

Offutt’s new collection of short stories is titled "Out of the Woods." At the age of 19, Offutt left his Appalachian Mountain community of 200 and held more than 50 part-time jobs in various parts of the country. Many of the hard-edged stories in "Out of the Woods" are about those who have left the Kentucky hills and long to return: gravediggers, drifters, gamblers and truck drivers.

Offutt’s first book, "Kentucky Straight," also a collection of stories, won awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Whiting Foundation. Tobias Wolff wrote, "Chris Offutt is one of the best writers of short fiction in his -- or any -- generation." Annie Dillard called him "a first-rate storyteller soaring at the height of his power."

Offutt also wrote "The Same River Twice," a memoir partly about his experiences in Iowa City when he was a student in the Writers’ Workshop, and "The Good Brother," a novel. His short stories have appeared in a wide variety of journals. His story "Melungeons" was anthologized in "Best American Short Stories 1994" and "Aunt Granny Lith" in The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories.

He is slated to teach at the Writers’ Workshop until the spring of 2001. In recent years, he has taught creative writing at Morehead State University, the University of Montana and the University of New Mexico.