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University of Iowa News Release

Aug. 24, 2004

UI International Writing Program Welcomes Representatives Of 28 Countries

Thirty-nine writers, representing 28 countries, will be in residence at the University of Iowa during the next three months as participants in the International Writing Program (IWP). The IWP is a unique residency program that each year promotes international understanding by assembling a "United Nations of writing" at the UI.

Included are writers from several "hot-spot" countries frequently in the news -- including Afghanistan, Malaysia, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Israel, Rwanda and Turkey. The roster includes a substantial contingent from predominantly Moslem countries, including the IWP's first writer from Oman.

A full list of writers, with biographies, is accessible at, which also features an evolving calendar of events and news stories.

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, including events associated with the UI Year of the Arts and Humanities celebration and a conference of African playwrights hosted by the UI Department of Theatre Arts.

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 at the corner of Clinton and Fairchild streets.

On campus, the writers become part of the UI's rich literary life, which includes not only the famed Iowa Writers' Workshop, but also the graduate program in creative non-fiction, the Translation Workshop and the Iowa Playwrights Workshop.

In addition to activities on campus, groups of writers will travel to St. Louis for the United Arts Festival, to Chicago for the Chicago Humanities Festival and to Des Moines for events associated with Drake University and the Des Moines Art Center; and individual writers will visit communities and institutions throughout the country.

The IWP writers are housed in the Iowa House of the Iowa Memorial Union, locating them 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, More than a thousand writers -- established and emerging poets, fiction writers, dramatists, and non-fiction writers -- from more than 115 countries have attended the IWP.

Participants in the IWP do not take classes at the UI; no degree is given by the program. All the activities offered by the IWP are optional, and the writers are free to use their time as they wish, to write, interact or 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 an undergraduate course, "International Literature Today," attend readings, collaborate 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.

The IWP becomes the source of first American publication for many of its writers. In addition, at the UI the writers, free from political pressures, experience personal, intellectual and literary encounters that would be impossible in their home countries.

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 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 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."

An initiative of UI President David J. Skorton, the Year of the Arts and Humanities aims to raise the profile of the arts and humanities throughout the state of Iowa during the 2004-05 academic year. Projects and events will focus on the discoveries made by artists, writers, scholars and thinkers, and how they can provide meaning for people from every background, bridging differences, creating sustainable economies, and adding to the fabric of life. The Year of the Arts and Humanities is supported at the UI by the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice-President for Research and the Graduate College.

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.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073,