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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 18, 2003

International Writing Program's Global Community Comes Together At UI

The beginning of the 2003-04 school year at the University of Iowa on Aug. 25 signals the coalescence of a unique global community of writers, as the International Writing Program (IWP) begins it annual three-month residency. This year -- despite unprecedented challenges in obtaining entry visas, due to tightened U.S. security measures -- 25 writers representing 21 countries will make the UI their temporary home.

During their residency, the IWP participants will be accessible to the public in a variety of panel discussions, literary readings, performances and social events, both on and off the UI campus.

In a special 2003 experiment, IWP poets will collaborate with Hancher Auditorium guest jazz artist Stefon Harris, with the results performed in a "cafe" event in the Wheelroom of the Iowa Memorial Union.

The annual IWP Festival, a series of free literary events organized around the Oct. 12 birthday of co-founder Paul Engle, will focus on "Landscape and Literature."

Serial events throughout September and October will include joint IWP/Iowa Writers' Workshop readings most Sunday afternoons in the Prairie Lights bookstore in downtown Iowa City and panel discussions most Wednesday afternoons in the Iowa City Public Library. Other IWP readings will take place in the Shambaugh House, the IWP's on-campus headquarters; the Iowa Memorial Union; Shambaugh Auditorium of the Main Library, and other locations.

To keep up-to-date on the evolving schedule of public events -- which is certain to expand and change after the writers arrive -- visit and frequently.

The IWP writers will be housed in the Iowa House of the Iowa Memorial Union, locating them squarely in the center of UI campus life and a short walk from the Shambaugh House.

The principal aim of the International Writing Program (IWP) is threefold: to introduce talented individuals to American life, to enable them to take part in American university life and to provide the writers with time, in a setting congenial to their efforts, for the production of literary work.

Since 1967, nearly a thousand writers -- established and emerging poets, fiction writers, dramatists, and non-fiction writers -- from more than 115 countries have attended the IWP.

Participants of the IWP do not take classes at the UI; no degree is given for participation in the program. All the activities offered by the program are optional, and the writers are free to use their time as they wish, to write or to conduct research.

The program also strives to give each writer the opportunity to present work in a public forum, and it organizes visits by individual writers to other parts of the United States, including schools and colleges within Iowa and around the nation.

The writers also contribute to a mini-course, "International Literature Today," attend readings, work with students in the UI Translation Workshop, visit literature classes, learn firsthand about Iowa's rural heritage, attend performances in Hancher Auditorium and interact with faculty and students in a variety of academic departments.

Included in the off-campus schedule are events at the Des Moines Art Center and the Midwest Writing Center in Rock Island, participation in the Chicago Humanities Festival and performances at the Portland (Maine) Theatre Festival.

The IWP becomes the source of first American publication for many of its writers. In addition, at the UI the writers experience personal, intellectual and literary encounters that would be impossible in their home countries, free from political pressures. The IWP, which functions as a sort of United Nations of writers, stresses the common interests of writers everywhere, in an atmosphere that puts political differences into perspective. For writers who live under repressive regimes, the IWP has provided an unprecedented opportunity to write, speak and interact freely.

The importance of the IWP to international understanding was recognized as early as 1976, when former senator, diplomat and UN Ambassador Averrill Harriman nominated founders Paul and Hualing Nieh Engle for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1995 the program was honored with the Governor's Award for distinguished service to the State of Iowa.

A quarter century of residencies have enabled the IWP to accumulate an unparalleled collection of resources on international literature, which have been organized in a new library in the Shambaugh House. The IWP remains in contact with former participants, creating an unprecedented literary and intellectual network without national boundaries.

The IWP is staffed and housed by the UI. IWP writers have been financed by the United States State Department, through bilateral agreements with numerous countries; by grants given by cultural institutions and governments abroad; and by private funds that are donated by a variety of American corporations, foundations and individuals.

The IWP is directed by poet and essayist Christopher Merrill, a faculty member in the UI English department, and the international literature commentator for the syndicated radio program "The World." Merrill is the author of "Only the Nails Remain," a first-hand account of the tragedy in the Balkans. His most recent book of poetry is "Brilliant Water."

A list of the 2003 IWP writers-in-residence with their biographies is available at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail,

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Media: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,
Program: Christopher Merrill, 319-335-2609 or 515-770-1396,