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University of Iowa News Release


June 13, 2007

IWP Receives Humanities Iowa Support For Paul Engle Play

The University of Iowa International Writing Program (IWP) has received $20,000 in funding from Humanities Iowa to create a one-man play about Paul Engle, the Iowa poet who led the Iowa Writers' Workshop to prominence and was the co-founder of the IWP with Hualing Nieh Engle.

The IWP will celebrate its 40th anniversary this fall, and the premiere of the play is projected for Oct. 12, 2008, the centennial of Engle's birth.

The development of the play's material will be overseen by dramaturg Art Borreca, the Department of Theatre Arts faculty member who directs the Iowa Playwrights Workshop. He has engaged eight Iowa-connected playwrights to write 20-25 pages of material, and he will select the writer of the strongest manuscript to write the full play.

"Paul Engle left a treasure-trove of testimony to be drawn upon," says IWP Director Christopher Merrill. "He published a dozen books of poetry, a novel, a children's book, a full-length libretto and a memoir, and after his death his widow, Hualing Nieh Engle, entrusted Coe College with a collection of his papers, including family letters, office files, manuscripts and letters to and/or from notable literary figures including Robert Frost, Wallace Stegner, Robert Bly, Robert Penn Warren, Gwendolyn Brooks, John Cheever, Louis Untermeyer, Kurt Vonnegut and others."

In addition, thousands of writers throughout the world have written about Engle, reflecting about how their lives intersected with his and about his impact on literature worldwide.

Since 1967 nearly 1,100 writers from more than 120 countries have participated in the IWP, including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, Viktor Pelevin, Edward Radzinsky, Luisa Valenzuela, Jose Donoso, Nina Cassian, Ding Ling, Bei Dao, Yu Hua, Su Tong, John Banville, Sebastian Barry, Tomaz Salamun and Arnost Lustig.

In the application to Humanities Iowa, Merrill called Engle "one of Iowa's greatest citizens": "In the early 1930s, this son of a horse-trader from Cedar Rapids was carried across the country by his first poetry collection, and then over the ocean by a Rhodes scholarship -- and thus began a life marked by writing and travel and success, a life that made the state of Iowa synonymous with literary excellence around the world.

"His story is worth highlighting: His successes have shaped how many Iowans now think of themselves. And it is a story Iowans should be encouraged to re-tell, for this one-time Nobel Prize-nominee thought globally and acted locally, bringing the world to Iowa, and Iowa to the world.

"Above all, it's simply a tremendous story of what one person can accomplish, a story of adventure and bull-headedness played out across far-flung continents, against the backdrop of a century in upheaval stretching from the fallout of the October Revolution to the intrigues of the Cold War. It is a story that captures the imagination, and which can reach into the present, to the living legacies of his work spread across the state.

"Paul Engle's impact upon the literary world, as a behind-the-scenes force, is as significant as that of any literary figure of the twentieth century. It is time to bring this teacher, writer, and leader -- this tremendous son of Iowa -- center stage."

Humanities Iowa is the only non-profit organization in Iowa committed to bringing the humanities to life and to the public through interactive programming, publications and events. Humanities Iowa was founded in Iowa in 1971 and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington D.C. Humanities Iowa provides grants to aid other non-profit organizations in furthering the humanities in Iowa as well as conducting its own programs in support of the humanities across Iowa.

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

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