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University of Iowa News Release

July 11, 2003

'Live From Prairie Lights' Features UI Alumnus Michael Dennis Browne

"Live from Prairie Lights," the series of broadcast readings hosted by Julie Englander on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910, will complete its summer schedule with readings July 21-23:

-- popular novelist Elizabeth Berg reading from "Say When" at 8 p.m. Monday, July 21;
-- poet Michael Dennis Browne, an alumnus of the UI Writers' Workshop, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 22; and
-- and Canadian writer Austin Clarke, reading from his new novel, "The Polished Hoe," at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 23.

The Browne and Clarke readings will be free events in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Berg's reading will be held in Buchanan Auditorium of the UI Pappajohn Business Administration Building.

Listen to the readings on the Internet at

Elizabeth Berg made her mark with her debut, "Durable Goods," an American Library Association "Best Book of the Year." It was followed by a series of books about contemporary women's lives including "Joy School," "The Pull of the Moon," "Open House," "What We Keep," "True to Form" and "Until the Real Thing Comes Along."

Some of Berg's works have medical titles and subject matter, a reflection of her career as a registered nurse. For example, in "Range of Motion," her main character is a comatose man, and in "Talk Before Sleep" she portrays a nurse caring for a friend dying of cancer.

A review in the Detroit Free Press praised Berg's powers of description, "You can almost taste, feel, and hear her novels with an amazing intensity." And a preview of "Say When" in Publishers Weekly concluded, "These days, separation and divorce are commonplace, but a book that treats those subjects with Berg's tenderness and understanding is not."

Michael Dennis Browne returns to the UI to teach in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. His "Selected Poems 1965-1995" won the Minnesota Book Award for poetry in 1998. "You Won't Remember This" won the same award in 1993. A new collection of poetry, "Things I Can't Tell You," is forthcoming.

Browne's poems have been published in many magazines and anthologies, including TriQuarterly, the Iowa Review, The New Yorker and the American Poetry Review. As a librettist, he has written many texts for music, working principally with composers Stephen Paulus and John Foley.

Browne has taught at the UI, Columbia University, Bennington College and, since 1971, the University of Minnesota, where he is a professor of English, former director of the creative writing program and winner of two Distinguished Teacher awards.

Austin Clarke's "The Polished Hoe" is a best seller in Canada, and winner of Canada's Giller Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize Best Book Award for Canada and the Caribbean region.

Reviewer Brad Hoover, writing for Booklist, described the book as "a digressive but endlessly fascinating, even charming monologue delivered by one Mary-Mathilda, an old woman living on a big plantation on a West Indian island. Real time is a matter of hours, but the time covered by Mary-Mathilda's monologue, as she confesses her guilt in a major crime to the local constable, is the 1930s and '40s.

"As night draws on, Mary-Mathilda reminisces about her long life on the plantation, chronicling not only the history of the plantation but also the island itself. Mary-Mathilda 'graduated' from field hand to servant in the main house to mistress of the plantation manager; the fabric of her existence has been woven with colonialism, racism, servitude and sexual exploitation."

Clarke was born in Barbados and immigrated in 1955 to Canada, where he has been a broadcaster, a civil-rights leader, a diplomat and a professor. He has published novels including "The Toronto Trilogy"; "The Origin of Waves," winner of the Rogers Communications Writers' Trust Fiction Prize; and "The Question," a finalist for the Governor General's Award. He is also the author of five short-story collections and three memoirs. His other honors include the 1999 W.O. Mitchell Literary Prize, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award and the Order of Canada.

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

CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,