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Release: Jan. 18, 2002

Photo: Cuban poet and playwright Norge Espinosa.

Cuban Serves As UI International Programs' Writer-In-Residence

Award-winning Cuban poet and playwright, Norge Espinosa, hopes to build bridges of cultural understanding with people in the local community as University of Iowa International Programs' Spring 2002 Writer-in-Residence.

Through the Writer-in-Residence Program, world-renowned writers travel around Iowa to conduct readings and workshops at K-12 schools, public libraries, senior centers, and other venues. The program is funded by the Stanley/UI Foundation Support Organization and a Title VI National Resource Center (NCR) grant from the U.S. Department of Education and allows International Programs to host international writers. Espinosa is based in the International Center during this three-month residency.

"One of the goals of the program is to maximize the interaction between participants and the writer," says UI International Programs' Outreach Coordinator Buffy Quintero. "This is a wonderful and rare opportunity for students, educators and the community to learn about many different facets of Cuban life and culture firsthand from one of the most talented contemporary Cuban poets in the world."

In addition to tailor-made programs, Espinosa is available to speak on the following themes in English or Spanish: New Cuban Poetry: Tradition and Ruptures; Young Writers in Cuba; Performing Arts in Cuba; Cuban Playwrights: The Empty Stage; Gays and Cultural Expression in Cuba: A Fight Against the Silence; and Life and Culture in Cuba.

"I want to talk and read to American audiences about several issues, which are connected with my personal life as a poet, playwright and critic in Cuba, and also to my work supporting gays and lesbian cultural expression in my country," Espinosa says. "Who are we, the new generation of Cubans, as writers, actors, stage directors, painters, and simple human beings. This is a living map of my own memories about Cuba, and I'll invite the audience to live in this map for a few minutes of readings, and basically debate and have a time for questions and answers."

During the presentations, Espinosa can read from his own works, talk about the art of writing, and discuss his home culture and the role of the artist/writer in that culture as well as his own experience in America.

"Cuban artists are trying to build new bridges of understanding and awareness through cultural discussions with this nation," Espinosa says. "If I can show Iowa audiences something more about real life and cultural issues in Cuba today, this bridge will became more than a dream.

Espinosa is not a stranger to Iowa. He first visited the local community last fall as a participant in the world renowned UI International Writing Program. He says he is excited about the opportunity to spend more time in the local community as International Programs' Writer-in-Residence.

"Cuba and Iowa are similar: the two places are islands," Espinosa says. " If Cuba is a real island in the Caribbean Sea, Iowa is another island in a very special point of America. These two places are sharing a need to know more about the world. Cuba is trying to open new windows for the cultural and liberal expression of its people, and Iowa is using its University as a gate to the world."

Espinosa has accomplished a great deal in 30 years. Since the age of 14, he has been collaborating with groups of Cuban writers. As a 17-year-old, he won the prestigious National Prize of Poetry from the cultural magazine, El Caimán Barbudo, for his book "Las Breves Tribulaciones" ("The Brief Tribulations"). In 1992, he graduated with a Gold Title from the National School of Instructors of Theater.

Since then Espinosa has published collections of poetry, plays, and an anthology. His children's play "Sácame Del Apuro" ("The Charmed Shrimp") performed by the theatrical group Pálpito won many awards, including the National Festival of Performing Arts' best text for children. He also published a children's book, "Los Pequenos Prodigios" ("Little Miracles") in 1996.

Espinosa serves as director of the Havana bookstore, Libreria El Ateneo, works as a production assistant for the magazine, Revista Tablas, and is one of the leaders of the theatre, Teatro El Público. For the last three years, he has organized a weeklong gay and lesbian cultural festival in Havana. Two of Espinosa's poems, "Vestido De Novia" ("Bridal Gown") and "Dejar La Isla" ("Leaving the Island") are among the most widely anthologized poems by younger Cuban poets. His poems have also been widely published internationally.

For more information or to set up a workshop or speaking engagement, contact International Program's Outreach Coordinator Buffy Quintero at (319) 335-0345 or by e-mail at

International Programs consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost and dean for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research and teaching.