CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Blaise will leave University of Iowa International Writing Program
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Clark Blaise, director of the International Writing
Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa since 1990, will leave the UI at
the end of the current academic year to devote his full time to writing.
Blaise announced his decision at a joint reading with his wife, Bharati
Mukherjee, Nov. 20 at the UI.
Blaise will relocate to San Francisco, where Mukherjee is a faculty
member at the University of California at Berkeley. Mukherjee is currently
at the UI as a visiting faculty member in the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Both
Blaise and Mukherjee are graduates of the workshop.
He is currently under contract for two books and is planning a third
book. "The mountain of minutes that a writer is given in his life
seems immense at one time, but you begin to see the sands running out,
and you feel as though you've got to get the books out that you were destined
to write," he says.
Linda Maxson, dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts, stated, "Although
I am relatively new to UI, I have quickly come to appreciate the enormous
contribution Clark has made to the IWP, to the UI and to the larger writing
community here in Iowa and around the world. We will miss his talent and
his enormous and unselfish energies, but we understand his decision and
wish him nothing but success and fulfillment in the next phase of his writing
Despite the demands of the IWP directorship, Blaise has been able to
add to a critically acclaimed body of work including novels, short stories
and non-fiction by writing three books -- a short novel, a collection of
short stories and an award-winning autobiography -- during his IWP tenure.
"None are the substantial, large works I had hoped for," he explains.
"Instead I've written thousands of pages of letters, speeches and
panel discussions. That's where the time and energy has gone, and I personally
just need to reverse it."
Blaise says that he understood the commitment the IWP would require
when he accepted the position: "We are what the rest of the world
knows about Iowa. I realized it would be the most important job of my life,
and the closest to a number of things that are very deeply imbedded in
my heart and my brain -- being of service to writers; being of service
to the international community of writers; to be able to exercise some
of the experiences and talents and language skills I've accumulated over
And now, he says, he will leave the UI with a sense of gratitude and
fulfillment. "These have been wonderful years here in Iowa City,"
he says. "I leave here with no regrets. It has given me the opportunity
to know more than 250 authors, whom I've gotten to know very well, whom
I have had the opportunity to visit in their own countries, and with whom
I have been able to forge permanent friendships. Very few writers in this
country are given that opportunity.
"For that opportunity I will be eternally grateful. I've tried
to return that gratitude to the UI by enlarging the pool of donors that
give dollars to the program, and arts agencies abroad who contribute their
writers and their money to this program to make it work."
Blaise has also expanded the connections of IWP writers with other UI
departments and programs, and next year's residency will see the beginning
of an exchange program that will send a Writers' Workshop student to Germany
while a German writer is in residence at the IWP, and a film series co-sponsored
by the IWP and the UI program in broadcast and film.
Founded in 1967, the IWP is the largest international writers residency
program in the world. Each fall, the IWP organizes a community of approximately
35 prominent writers from all parts of the world.
During three months at the UI in Iowa City, the writers not only work
on their current writing and research projects, but also interact formally
and informally with each other and with the many poets, fiction writers,
playwright and non-fiction writers in the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the Iowa
Playwrights Workshop and the English department's program in literary non-fiction.
The Interactive Translation Program, which pairs UI translators with IWP
writers, was founded during Blaise's tenure.
At the UI the IWP writers give readings, serve on discussion panels,
initiate translation projects, view cultural and artistic events and contribute
to a mini-course, "International Literature Today." The IWP becomes
the facilitator of first American publication for many of the writers.
Many of the writers travel from Iowa City to locations throughout the
country to present readings and lectures, to participate in conferences
and symposia, and to visit sites of cultural and literary interest. Under
Blaise's leadership, the national impact of the IWP writers has expanded
Over the course of three decades, more than 1,100 writers from more
than 110 countries have completed residencies in the IWP. This fall 31
writers from 26 countries have been in residence at the UI.
IWP writers have been financed by the United States Information Agency,
through bilateral agreements with numerous countries; by grants given by
cultural institutions and governments abroad; and by private funds that
are donated by a variety of American corporations, foundations and individuals.
Blaise forged bi-lateral agreements with several countries, and the IWP
is on the verge of signing agreements with Venezuela and Singapore.
After graduating from the Writers' Workshop, Blaise has lived in Germany,
India, Canada, France and the United States. He holds joint American/Canadian
His literary output includes the novels "Lunar Attractions,"
"Lusts" and, most recently "If I Were Me"; the short
story collections "Tribal Justice," "A North American Education,"
"Resident Alien" and "Man and His World"; the autobiography
"I Had a Father," which was non-fiction book of the year; and,
with Mukherjee the non-fiction works "Days and Nights in Calcutta"
and "The Sorrow and the Terror." Blaise's life as a world-traveler
for the IWP is one of the recurring themes of "I Had a Father."