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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 3, 2008

UI celebrates Engle Centennial with premiere reading of new biographical play

The University of Iowa will celebrate the birth centennial of Iowa poet Paul Engle, who led the Iowa Writers' Workshop to prominence and co-founded the International Writing Program (IWP), with the premiere reading of a new play-in-progress about his life at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 12, in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol.

IWP director Christopher Merrill said, "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 20th century. It is time to bring this teacher, writer, and leader -- this tremendous son of Iowa -- center stage."

The IWP, with funding from Humanities Iowa and the assistance of Theatre Arts faculty, commissioned playwright Lisa Schlesinger, a graduate and faculty member of the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, to bring Engle's life to the stage.

Paul Engle Day, Oct. 12, was established in 2000 through a proclamation by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. A native of Cedar Rapids, Engle was graduated from the UI as the first poet anywhere to obtain an advanced degree on the basis of a collection of poems -- a collection that won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. He returned to the UI to lead the Writers' Workshop to prominence, and in 1967 he and Hualing Nieh Engle founded the International Writing Program (IWP). He died in 1990 while en route to receive Poland's highest civilian honor.

The Writers' Workshop remains the most prestigious and influential writing program at any university. And the importance of the IWP to international understanding was recognized in 1976 when former Senator, diplomat and U.N. Ambassador Averrill Harriman nominated the Engles for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1995 the program was honored with the Governor's Award for distinguished service to the State of Iowa.

The IWP introduces talented writers to American life; enables them to take part in American university life; and provides them with time, in a setting congenial to their efforts, for the production of literary work. Since 1967 more than 1,100 writers from more than 120 countries have attended the IWP, including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk from Turkey.

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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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