IWP 50th Anniversary Week
October 9-13, 2017

Over the course of a week, coinciding with the Iowa City Book Festival, the International Writing Program marked its rich history with several special events. Returning to Iowa City, distinguished alumni from all the program’s five decades participated in a series of panel discussions at the Iowa City Public Library. Satellite readings and screenings took place on campus and in downtown Iowa City. And on the evening of Wednesday October 11, IWP threw an Anniversary Gala and fundraiser.

Find out more about the week’s guests, read presentation papers, and watch videos of the public events below.

October 10 (Tuesday)

50th Panel: World Literature Today
Tim Parks (Chair)
Lorna Goodison
On World Literature
Peter Nazareth
“Revisiting Butterfly Rapping”
Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor

Jeremy Tiang
“In the World but Not of It”

Major international writers take on some contested issues around the idea of ‘a world literature’: Is globalization changing what and how we read? Does world lit spread on the back of “universal human values” – or is it propelled by marketing and the internet? What of the crushingly dominant role of English? What power does translation have? And, what literary writing is falling between the cracks, but shouldn’t?


October 11 (Wednesday)

50th Panel: Fifty Years of Latin American Literature
Claire Fox (Chair)
Luis Bravo “That Sparkle of That Language”
Alberto Fuguet
“Prologue to McOndo”
Pola Oloixarac

Spanish-language writers from the Americas track the aesthetic, formal, thematic, and regional changes in the five decades since ‘El Boom’. Are the inheritances valued, or a burden?


October 12 (Thursday)

50th Panel: One Chinese Language, Many Chinese Literatures
Jin Feng (Chair) , Bi Feiyu, Dung Kai-cheung: “Between Tongue and Hand: A Cantonese-Chinese Literature”, Li Di An, Poon Yiu Ming, Ya Hsein

Thanks to the Engle legacy at the IWP, Iowa City has been the temporary home for some of today’s most beloved Chinese-language writers. A multi-generational group of novelists, poets and critics from both sides of the Taiwan Strait debates the forces pressing on contemporary Sinophone writing.


October 13 (Friday)

50th Panel: National Literatures in a Time of Rising Nationalisms
Daniel Simon (Chair) “Translating against the Tide of Rising Nationalisms”
Dung Kai-cheung “The Rock and the Gravel”
Luljeta Lleshanaku
On Being an Albanian Writer
Sadek Mohammed
On the Concept of National Literature in Iraq
Anja Utler

During this era of the inward turn, with nation-states enthusiastically claiming a monolithic cultural and historical identity, the challenge falls on writers and readers alike to re-think what – and who – literature is for.  Should minority voices be challenging majority narratives? Is language flattened out when a nation yearns to speak in one voice? Is the old role of the writer as “a nation’s conscience” needed again? Or, might the sum of a nation’s social media posts be a new, more real “national literature”?


Bi Feiyu 毕飞宇 (China, IWP ’06) is one of his country’s best known living writers. His debut novel [Breast-Feeding Women] was awarded the Lu Xun Literary Prize. Published in English in 2007, The Moon Opera introduced his work to the English-speaking world; his novel Three Sisters would go on to win the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize. In 2011 his novel Massage won the Mao Dun Prize, China’s highest literary honor. A film based on the work, directed by Lou Ye, Blind Massage, won the Silver Bear prize at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival.

Luis Bravo (Uruguay, IWP ’12) has published over a dozen works of poetry in book form and as multimedia projects. His work has been translated into Portuguese, German, Estonian, French, Swedish, English, and Farsi. Bravo’s bilingual Spanish-English collection, Liquen/Lichen, came out in 2014. He is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Romance Languages at the University of Notre Dame.

Dung Kai-cheung 董啟章 (Hong Kong, IWP ’09) is most recently the author of Cantonese Love Stories: Twenty-five Vignettes of a City (2017). In 2014 he was named the Hong Kong Book Fair Author of the Year. Dung’s translation, with Anders Hansson and Bonnie S. McDougall, of his novel Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City into English won the Best Translated Work prize at the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Awards (2013). He teaches creative writing and literature at universities in Hong Kong.

Jin Feng 馮進 (China/USA) is the Orville and Mary Patterson Routt Professor of Literature in the Department of Chinese and Japanese at Grinnell College. Her books include Romancing the Internet: Consuming and Producing Chinese Web Romance (2013), The Making of a Family Saga: Ginling College (1915-1952) (2009) and The New Woman in Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction (2004).

Claire Fox (USA) is the Chair of UI’s Department of English, with a joint appointment in Spanish & Portuguese. A specialist in border studies, she has written extensively on visual and literary culture in Latin America and on the US-Mexico border, from the twentieth-century until the present. Her most recent book is Making Art Panamerican: Cultural Policy and the Cold War (2013).

Alberto Fuguet (Chile, IWP ’94) is a fiction writer, film critic, and director. Of his eight novels in Spanish, the best-seller Mala Onda (1991) appeared in English as Bad Vibes; The Movies of My Life was published in the US in 2003; the story collection Shorts appeared in 2005. [Road Story], a graphic novel came out in 2007. Fuguet has directed, written, or co-written five films. He is a Writer-in-Residence and teaches at Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago de Chile.

Lorna Goodison (Jamaica/USA, IWP ’83) is Poet Laureate of Jamaica and among the most celebrated living Caribbean writers. Her many books of poetry include the collections I Am Becoming My Mother (1986, Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Americas) and Oracabessa (2014, OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature). Goodison is the author of three short story collections; From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her People received the 2007 British Columbia National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction. A recipient of the Musgrave Medal by the Institute of Jamaica in recognition of her contribution to the arts, Goodison is Professor Emerita of English and Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan.

Li Di An 李笛安 (China) has published six novels and several novellas. The latest part of her trilogy [Memory in the City of Dragon], Nanyin, came out in 2012; [Tale of a Chastity Memorial Arch] came out in 2014. Among her prizes are Most Promising New Talent Award and the Chinese Literature Media Award; her work has been praised for “expanding the range and depth of youth literature.”

Luljeta Lleshanaku (Albania, IWP ’99) is the author of seven poetry collections in Albanian and nine collections in translation. Her poems have been published in four English-language volumes, including Haywire: New & Selected Poems (2011) from Bloodaxe Books in the UK, and Fresco (2002) and Child of Nature (2010) from New Directions in the US. Both presses will release her collection Negative Space in 2018. Lleshanaku has been the recipient of Albania’s National Silver Pen Prize in 2000, the Kristal Vilenice Prize in 2009, and the PEN Albania 2016 award.

Sadek Mohammed (Iraq, IWP ’14), poet, scholar and translator, is the author of the collection [Archeology of Scorched Cities] (2013) and the co-editor of Flowers of Flame: Unheard Voices of Iraq (2008, IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award) and Ishtar’s Songs: Iraqi Poetry since the 1970s (2011), of which he was the translator. Mohammed has translated writers including Maya Angelou, W. B. Yeats, Arthur Rimbaud, Sergey Yesenin, Osip Mandelstam, Elena Urlova and Mochamed Achmedov into Arabic, and many Iraqi poets into English. He is a Professor of English at the University of Mustansiriya and Director of the Baghdad UNESCO City of Literature.

Peter Nazareth (Uganda/USA, IWP ’73), a novelist and literary critic of Goan and Malaysian descent, is Professor of English at the University of Iowa, and, since 1977, Senior Program Advisor to the International Writing Program. His first novel, In a Brown Mantle, brought him to United States through a Yale Fellowship. Later works include the novel The General Is Up,  and scholarly publications Critical Essays on Ngugi wa Thiong’o (2000) and Pivoting on the Point of Return: Modern Goan Literature (2010). He lives in Iowa City with his wife of over 50 years, Mary Nazareth.

Pola Oloixarac (Argentina, IWP ’10) was named one of Granta’s Best Young Spanish Novelists in 2010, the same year she participated in IWP’s Fall Residency program. Her first novel, Savage Theories, was published in the US in 2017; it has also been translated into French, Dutch, Finnish, Italian and Portuguese. Oloixarac is a founding editor of the Buenos Aires Review, a bilingual literary journal. She currently lives in San Francisco.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Kenya, IWP ’05/’17) is an author, lecturer, and arts curator. Her first novel, Dust, was published by Knopf in 2014, and received the 2015 TBC Jomo Kenyatta Literature Award. In 2003, she won the Caine Prize for African Writing for her story “Weight of Whispers,”  also the title of a 2003 volume. Owuor was an IWP Fall Resident in 2005, and returns in 2017 as the Residency’s first Grinnell Fellow.

Tim Parks (UK/Italy) is a novelist, essayist, travel writer and translator based in Italy. Author of sixteen novels, including Europa (1997), Destiny (1999), Cleaver (2006), and more recently In Extremis (2017), he has translated works by Moravia, Calvino, Calasso, Tabucchi, Machiavelli and Leopardi. While running a post-graduate degree course in translation at International University of Languages and Media in Milan, he writes regularly for the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. His many non-fiction works include A Season with Verona (2002), An Italian Education (2006), and Italian Ways (2014). His critical work includes the essay collection Where I’m Reading From (2014), The Novel, A Survival Skill (2015), and Translating Style: A Literary Approach to Translation, published in a revised edition in 2007.

Poon Yiu Ming 潘耀明 (Hong Kong, IWP ’83) is the chief editor of Ming Pao Monthly, a publication that covers academic and cultural topics in East Asia.

Daniel Simon (USA) is Assistant Director and Editor-in-Chief of World Literature Today. He is a translator, the editor of a major anthology of Nebraska poetry, and the author of poetry collections Cast Off (2015) and After Reading Everything (2016). Simon teaches at the University of Oklahoma in the Department of English and in the Department of International & Area Studies.

Jeremy Tiang (Singapore, IWP ’11) is a fiction writer, translator and playwright. His first novel, State of Emergency, was published in 2017. A story collection, It Never Rains on National Day, was shortlisted for the 2016 Singapore Literature Prize. Tiang’s plays have been performed in London and Singapore. The translator of several novels and plays from Chinese into English, Tiang currently lives in New York City.

Anja Utler (Germany, IWP ’14) is the author of six books, as well as several acoustic and visual installations of poetry. Her poems and essays have been translated into 20 languages. For her work she has received the Leonce-und-Lena-Preis (2003), the Basler Lyrikpreis (2014) and the 2016 Heimrad Bäcker prize, awarded annually for experimental literature written in German. A collection in English, engulf – enkindle, was translated by Kurt Beals and published by Burning Deck in 2010. The year following her participation in IWP, Utler was the Max Kade German Writer in Residence at Oberlin College. She is currently a visiting professor at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna.

Ya Hsien 瘂弦, pen name of Wang Ching-lin 王慶麟 (Taiwan, IWP ’67), one of the key Sinophone poets of the late 20th century, began publishing in the early 1950s; a member of the Taiwanese Modernist movement, he also co-founded the journal Epoch Poetry Quarterly. His Abyss was first published in 1968 and expanded in 1971; in 2017 a long-awaited English translation won John Balcom a finalist placement for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. In 2013 Ya Hsien was awarded the Zhongkun International Poetry Prize. A documentary about him, A Life That Sings, was released in 2015.