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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 7, 2004

Sept. 18 Reading Is Memorial To UI Poet Donald Justice

The University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and Prairie Lights Books will memorialize poet Donald Justice with a reading from his posthumously published "Collected Poems" at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, in the Shambaugh Auditorium of the UI Main Library.

Readers will include poets who were classmates or students or friends of Justice -- Robert Dana, James Galvin, David Hamilton, William Logan, Robert Mezey, Mark Strand, Jerry Harp, Jan Weissmiller and Charles Wright.

Justice died on Aug. 6 in Iowa City, at the age of 78.

David Orr wrote in the Aug. 29 New York Times Book Review, in a piece that was both a review of the new volume and a reverent eulogy to Justice: "What could Donald Justice be considered a great example of? The best answer is that he wasn't a great example of anything -- he was, in the end, simply a great poet.

"And because of that, because he didn't lead a school or start a movement or stand for a theory, his achievements will for a while be easier to overlook than they should be. But a writer like this understands that poetry always means waiting for the right line, and waiting for the right time to use it. Readers who are willing to wait for Justice in return will find a past revealed in all its strange richness -- and a future as well."

A graduate of the UI Writers' Workshop, Justice was for many years a faculty member of the workshop, and he received the Pulitzer Prize during his UI tenure. He returned to Iowa City in 1992 after retiring from the University of Florida.

Justice's books included "New and Selected Poems" (1995); "A Donald Justice Reader" (1991); "The Sunset Maker" (1987), a collection of poems, stories and a memoir; "Selected Poems" (1979), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize; "Departures" (1973); "Night Light" (1967); and "The Summer Anniversaries" (1959), which was the Academy of American Poets' Lamont Poetry Selection. The posthumous collection was just published.

Justice won the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1991 and received grants in poetry from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. He was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1997.

Writing in The New Yorker, former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand commented that Justice's poetry "engages us on a level more profound than the one we usually find ourselves on. . . . Memory and rapture are so closely intertwined that they become a single gesture of sustained regard."

Writers' Workshop alumnus John Irving wrote, "Donald Justice has always demonstrated that the highest purpose of literature is to illuminate those things which are hard, disturbing, painful, moving, and repeat themselves -- not to obscure them."

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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,