The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

April 19, 2005

YAH Festival Celebrates Year's Enduring Elements April 28-May 2

The Year of the Arts and Humanities will close with a five-day festival of music, poetry, film and internationalism April 28 to May 2, but a lasting legacy will remain following the University of Iowa's yearlong focus on the arts and humanities on campus, around the state, and in our daily lives.

Events include a lecture by Harriet Fulbright, a ceremony designating Iowa City a member of the North American Network of Cities of Asylum, a celebration of French and American poetry, a panel discussion and tribute to philosopher Jacques Derrida, a tribute to the life and work of UI poetry professor Marvin Bell, a lecture and performance combining physics and music, the premier of a new documentary about Western filmmaker Sam Peckinpah and a reading by poet W.S. Merwin. All events are free and open to the public. A complete schedule is online,

"We are celebrating the discoveries made over the course of this year and the structures we have created in which future discoveries will be made," said Christopher Merrill, YAH co-chair, director of the International Writing Program, and professor of English.

One legacy of the YAH will be Iowa City's designation as a member of the North American Network of Cities of Asylum, which provides safe places to live and work for writers who are under threat of death, torture or imprisonment in their native countries. NANCA Executive Board members Russell Banks and Richard Wiley will join UI President David Skorton and Iowa City leaders in launching Iowa City's membership in NANCA on Thursday, April 28, at 8 p.m. in the Richey Ballroom, Iowa Memorial Union. Iowa's Congressional delegation has been invited to attend.

Merrill said the UI's International Writing Program has long been a haven for writers at risk and that joining NANCA provides a formal structure for protecting and supporting writers, ensuring that their voices will not be lost to future generations of readers.

International writing will also be highlighted during the festival with a series of readings, lectures and translation seminars dedicated to contemporary French and American poetry April 29 and 30. Participants in these events, sponsored by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Chicago, are French poets Nicolas Pesqués, Emmanuel Laugier, Jean-Patrice Courtois, and Esther Tellermann, and American poets Christina Pugh, Robyn Schiff, David St. John and Cole Swensen, a UI faculty member in the Writers' Workshop.

The poets will present two public readings, Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30 at 4 p.m. at the Shambaugh House. They also will participate in a panel discussion on translation immediately following the Saturday readings, starting at approximately 5:30 p.m. The Iowa City events are part of a three-city tour organized by the French Embassy in Chicago celebrating and renewing the long relationship between French and American poetry. These poets of different generations and styles did not know each other previously. Their objective is to translate each other's work, making it accessible to new generations of readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The international reach of arts and humanities will also be celebrated with a lecture by Harriet Fulbright, who will speak about "The Importance of the Humanities to International Understanding" on Thursday, April 28 at 4 p.m. in the Terrace Room, Iowa Memorial Union. Fulbright travels widely, lecturing on international relations. Her late husband, Sen. J. William Fulbright, served for 30 years in the U.S. Senate, including 15 years as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 1946 his legislation establishing the Fulbright Program of international faculty exchange was passed without dissent. Its first participants went overseas in 1948, and since then more than 250,000 Fulbright grantees have made significant contributions within their countries as well as to the overall goal of advancing mutual understanding.

Another enduring element of the YAH is the closer connection between scientists and artists on campus, Merrill said. On Sunday, May 1, the festival will feature a unique combination of art and science in "Strings and Superstrings," a lecture and performance by Brian Foster, professor of experimental physics at Oxford University, Jack Liebeck, an English violin virtuoso and Inon Barnatan, an Israeli pianist. The program starts at 6 p.m. in Clapp Recital Hall with a welcome from Skorton, followed by "Superstrings," in which Foster and Liebeck merge science with classical music to explain and illustrate superstring theory, the little-understood "fundamental Theory of Everything." Following a break, the "Strings" part of the evening will begin at 8 p.m., with Foster's brief remarks on "Einstein and Music" followed by Liebeck and Barnatan in concert featuring Mozart's Sonata K301, Brahms' Sonata in G major, Bloch's Nigun, and Prokofiev's Sonata in D major.

"String and Superstring," organized by Usha Mallik, professor of physics and astronomy in collaboration with Merrill and the YAH, is part of the UI's celebration of the World Year of Physics, which was designated by the United Nations and Physics Societies worldwide in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's three seminal publications that revolutionized our understanding of the universe.

Filmmaker Tom Thurman will attend the festival to premier his new documentary, "Sam Peckinpah's West: Legacy of a Hollywood Renegade," Sunday, May 1, at 8 p.m. at the student-run Bijou. Through a poignant array of film clips and rare interviews, the documentary reveals a tortured artist whose genius and demons changed the Western forever. Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch" will be shown at the Bijou Saturday, April 30, at 8 p.m.

The festival will close with a reception for those whose projects representing the broad scope of the arts and humanities at the UI and across the state were funded by the YAH during the last year. "What will make the YAH endure will be the impetus of the 38 grant funded projects, which took place all year long, that brought together UI faculty and students and staff with people in cities and towns throughout Iowa," said Jay Semel, YAH co-chair and director of the Obermann Center for Advanced Studies.

Skorton's determination to increase public awareness and support of the rich tradition of arts and humanities on campus and throughout Iowa led him to declare academic year 2004-2005 the Year of Arts and Humanities, a time to celebrate that rich tradition and forge cultural linkages between the academic community and communities around the state. The Year of the Arts and Humanities is supported by the Office of the President, the Office of the Vice-president for Research and the Graduate College.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Caroline Casey in advance at 319-335-3281 or

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Caroline Casey, 319-335-3281,

OTHER INFORMATION: A complete schedule of YAH Closing Festival events is online,