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Release: Sept. 11, 2000

'Voices from the Prairie' to feature UI writers, WSUI broadcast

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Four University of Iowa poets will inaugurate the first annual Iowa writers’ celebration, with the public reading "Voices from the Prairie," 3-5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15, in front of the Old Capitol on the UI Pentacrest. Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack will make introductory comments.

UI radio station WSUI, 910 AM, will provide a live broadcast of the event, which can also be heard through the WSUI website at

The poets -- Writers' Workshop faculty member and Iowa Poet Laureate Marvin Bell; Pulitzer Prize-winner Donald Justice, a UI emeritus faculty member; Writers' Workshop alumna Mary Swander, a faculty member at Iowa State University; and Iowa’s best-known farmer poet, UI alumnus Michael Carey -- will also answer questions from the audience, with moderation by UI English department faculty member David Hamilton, editor of the Iowa Review.

In case of rain, the event will be moved to the auditorium of Macbride Hall.

"Voices from the Prairie," which will be free and open to the public, is sponsored by Humanities Iowa, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Iowa Arts Festival, KSUI/WSUI public radio stations at the UI, the City of Iowa City, the Iowa Arts Council and the Eastern Iowa Tourism Association.

In association with the event, the City of Iowa City Public Art Program will unveil the design for a plaque commemorating Marvin Bell’s literary accomplishments. It is the first design for the Iowa Avenue Literary Walk, which, when completed, will consist of bronze sidewalk plaques celebrating the work of important Iowa writers.

WSUI has pre-recorded for broadcast the voices of Iowa City school children reading their award-winning poems, as selected from statewide submissions sponsored by the Iowa Reading Association, and Michael Carey will conduct poetry appreciation workshops in several public primary schools earlier in the day.

"Iowa has a strong, if not supreme, literary tradition," said Chris Rossi, director of Humanities Iowa, "and that tradition, as much as it has benefited the nation and the world, is overdue for some home-grown recognition. People take note of the Iowa literary scene and it's not surprising that C-SPAN, for instance, already is publicizing this event in its international listing of major book festivals. This year we’re showcasing poetry but I can imagine expanding this celebration to other literary forms as well."

Vicki Jennings, executive director of the co-sponsoring Iowa Arts Festival, says, "We’re aiming to provide a quality education and entertainment supplement to downtown Iowa City activities. By combining the constituencies of public broadcasting, the public arts and humanities, school teachers and students and the city and the university, we’re able to come up with a wonderfully inclusive public event."

John Monick, director of broadcasting services for the UI, noted the newly expanded role of WSUI in broadcasting affairs. "We’re delighted to have the opportunity to broadcast such a distinguished group of poets, not only to WSUI listeners in eastern Iowa, but to the entire state and around the world on the world wide web."

Rossi added, "We’re also pleased that this year’s event will serve as a cultural kickoff to weekend activities surrounding the UI-Iowa State football game. It’s not often that sports enthusiasts can get some poetry with their pigskin."

For more information phone Humanities Iowa at (319) 335-4153 or visit its website: For more information on the broadcast, phone WSUI at (319) 335-5730. For UI arts information, visit this new address -- -- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.