A Half-Century, Annotated

An informal timeline of 50 years of events, people, milestones at the IWP

The Beginning of IWP


Fifty years ago, the International Writing Program was born after Hualing Nieh suggested bringing together a group of established writers from around the globe to nurture their artistic creativity on the University of Iowa campus. Paul Engle, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, told her it was a crazy idea. “He always wanted to try […]..Read more

The First Twelve Writers


When the International Writing Program first began in 1967, there were only twelve writers in residence. As one of the early supporters of the program, the John Deere Company entertained the writers on a river cruise along the Mississippi. In this snapshot, the writers and the Engles stand in front of John Deere headquarters in […]..Read more

1969 Residency Collaborative Poem


Paul Engle and the 1969 writers-in-residence used the exquisite corpse technique to pen a collaborative poem for this broadside poster. Scroll through for a line-by-line reading.                                                             […]..Read more

Julia Hartwig (Poland, IWP ’70)


Hailed by Czesław Miłosz as “the grande dame of Polish poetry,” Julia Hartwig (IWP ’70) writes about the Iowa River in her poem “My Greetings to a Distant River.” Old Iowa River after many years I greet you again where the colors of spring and autumn look at themselves you who witnessed-fashioned houses and settlements […]..Read more

Tomaž Šalamun (Slovenia, IWP ’71): “Silently Flutter the Angels”


  Slovenian poet Tomaž Šalamun (IWP ’71) is another writer whose excerpts are created into one of our 50th anniversary edition broadsides. The original translation manuscript for his poem ‘Silently Flutter the Angels’ is shown below.  ..Read more

Imre Oravecz (Hungary, IWP ’72)


Hungarian poet Imre Oravecz (IWP ’72) writes in both English and his mother tongue, Hungarian. He is a winner of the Kossuth Prize and the Prima Primissa Award for Hungarian Literature. About two decades after his time at the IWP, he became a counselor to the Prime Minister of Hungary...Read more

Peter Nazareth (Uganda, IWP ’73): IWP’s long-time Program Advisor


IWP’s long-time Program Adviser Peter Nazareth first came to Iowa as a resident at the IWP in 1973! Leaving Uganda, his native country, after Idi Amin’s expulsion of Asians, Nazareth was invited to be a resident at the program. Him and his wife, Mary, loved Iowa City so much that they decided to stay. Peter […]..Read more

Oswald Mybuyiseni Mtshali (South Afica, IWP ’74)


Poet Oswald Mybuyiseni Mtshali (IWP ’74) is the first South African resident at the IWP. His poetry mostly centers on issues of the apartheid and of race. During his time at the IWP, he received the Olive Schreiner Prize from The English Academy of Southern Africa...Read more

Dilip Chitre (India, IWP ’75)


Indian poet, painter, and film maker Dilip Chitre (IWP ’75) was one of the foremost bilingual writers of post-independence India. During his time at the IWP, Chitre, along with Ahmed Muhamed Immovic (Yugoslavia) and Peter Clarke (South Africa), all IWP residents and poet-artists, had an art exhibition showcasing their work...Read more

The Engles Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize 1976


  Paul and Hualing Nieh Engle were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for their work in fostering the exchange of creative and cultural insights through the International Writing Program.   Over 300 writers from around the world advanced the Engles for the prize. Many friends of the IWP, including the Iowa State […]..Read more

Bessie Head (Botswana, IWP ’77)


Writer Bessie Head (IWP ’77) was originally from South Africa, where she started her own pro-Africanist newspaper. She moved to Serowe, Botswana with her son in 1964 as refugees, running away from the escalating apartheid and her unhappy marriage. Her writing takes inspiration from her own personal history, feminism, and racism. Her first novel, When […]..Read more

Paul Engle Retires in 1978


After a decade of directing the International Writing Program, Paul Engle retired from his position in 1978. Hualing Nieh Engle assumed the role as Director, and continued to lead the IWP forward as a unique conduit for the world’s literatures, connecting well-established writers from around the globe.    ..Read more

Chinese Weekend in 1979


After China’s reform and opening up in 1978, the International Writing Program organized the “Chinese Weekend” on September 15-16, 1979. The event brought together writers from China, Taiwan, and the United States for a weekend of literary discussions at the IWP. The gathering was unprecedented in the history of the United States and China’s literary relations. […]..Read more

Yotam Reuveni (Israel, IWP ’80)


Israeli poet-writer Yotam Reuveni (IWP ’80) is the first openly gay writer in Israel. His book In Praise of an Illusion (1977) is the first modern Hebrew novel about the homosexual experience, and is considered the ‘gay bible’ of its time. Twenty years after his residency at the IWP, Reuveni started his own publishing house, […]..Read more

Ding Ling (China, IWP ’81)


Chinese writer Ding Ling (IWP ’81) was an activist for women’s rights. She created, in her short stories, Chinese heroines who are daring and passionate, living confused, and dissatisfied with society. Because of her open criticisms of the Communist Party, she was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution. After spending 12 years in labor camp, she […]..Read more

Nakagami Kenji (Japan, IWP ’82): “Hanzo’s Bird”


Japanese novelist Nakagami Kenji (IWP ’82) was, according to the New York Times, “the first writer from the ghetto to make it into the mainstream and to attempt to tell other Japanese, however fictively or even fantastically, about life at the rough end of the economic miracle.” He is one of ten writers whose excerpts […]..Read more

Lorna Goodison (Jamaica, IWP ’83): “Me with the Straight Eyes”


Jamaican poet and artist Lorna Goodison’s (IWP ’83) work takes on issues of home and exile, and addresses how art has the power to reconcile the conflicts and contradictions in Caribbean history. She began her career as a painter, and eventually succumbed to her poetic voice. She said of poetry, “it’s a dominating, intrusive tyrant. […]..Read more

Sebastian Barry (Ireland, IWP ’84)


Irish novelist, poet, and playwright Sebastian Barry (IWP ’84) won his second Costa Book of the Year prize in January 2017 for his novel Days Without End. His writing draws inspiration from his personal family history. He is also known for his fluent, yet dense, writing style. An inventory of Barry’s papers at the Harry […]..Read more

Orhan Pamuk, Nobel Prize winner, a resident of the IWP in 1985


Turkish novelist, screenwriter, and academic Orhan Pamuk (IWP ’85, front row, third from the left) won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006. He is the second IWP alumnus to have done so. The award was given to Pamuk, “who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city has discovered new symbols […]..Read more

Boris Zakhoder (IWP ’86), first IWP resident from the USSR


Poet and children’s writer Boris Zakhoder (IWP ’86) is the first resident from the Soviet Union, now Russia, to attend the IWP. Indian novelist U.R. Ananthamurthy was particularly interested in getting to know Zakhoder and the USSR. Ananthamurthy and his wife poses with Zakhoder for a photo (above) at the Engles’ house. Aside from his […]..Read more