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University of Iowa News Release


June 4, 2010

Poet diplomat Christopher Merrill to speak at Englert June 15

Christopher Merrill will tell stories about international initiatives that have grown out of his role as director of the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program (IWP) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, at the Englert Theatre, 221 East Washington St. in downtown Iowa City.

This talk, titled “Through the Lens of Cultural Diplomacy: A Global Snapshot,” is free and open to the public. A question and answer session will follow the talk as well as an IWP fund-raising reception at the same venue sponsored by MidWestOne Bank.

Merrill, a poet and journalist, took on the role of cultural diplomat in 2000 when he became the director of the IWP. Since 1967, more than 1,100 writers from over 120 countries have taken part in the IWP at the UI, and 2006 marked the beginning of a series of international conferences.

The IWP role has resulted in fascinating personal experiences for Merrill, placing him on the frontier of cultural diplomacy. This includes a recent trip that took him to Iran, and efforts to engage writers from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. Merrill’s own work has been translated into 25 languages and his journalism appears in many publications.

Additionally, Merrill was a key member of a 2005 Department of State Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy which reviewed the state of America's public diplomacy and produced a report "Cultural Diplomacy: the Linchpin of Public Diplomacy."

In 2008, Merrill led the UI’s successful initiative to become a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated “City of Literature,” the world’s third city to earn this merit. This made Iowa City part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. The Creative Cities Network was designed to promote the social, economic and cultural development of cities in both the developed and the developing world.

The cities that apply to the network seek to promote their local creative scene and they share UNESCO's mission toward cultural diversity. For more information, visit

This event is also sponsored by the following organizations: Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities; The Dee Norton Fund of the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council; Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities; Iowa City Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau; the Iowa City Noon Rotary Club; the Iowa United Nations Association; Johnson County United Nations Association; MidWestOne Bank; and the UI Lecture Committee.

For more information or special accommodations to attend this event, contact Sharon Benzoni, executive director of CIVIC and ICFRC, at 319-384-2260 or This program is supported by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The views and opinions expressed by this program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities Iowa or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For more information on IWP, visit

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

MEDIA CONTACTS: Sharon Benzoni,, 319-384-2260; or Lois J. Gray, 319-384-0077,, Writer: Jodie Klein