CONTACT: PETER ALEXANDER
100 Old Public Library
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0072; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: May 22, 2000
University of Iowa appoints Christopher Merrill director of International
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Christopher Merrill, distinguished writer-in-residence
and holder of the William H. Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters at the College
of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., has been appointed director of the International
Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa. He also will have a faculty
appointment as professor in the UI department of English.
Merrill, 43, will begin his duties as director of the IWP Aug. 1 at an annual
salary of $88,000.
"This is a great time for the IWP," said David J. Skorton, UI vice
president for research, who has overseen the program for the past academic
year and who announced Merrills appointment today. "The program
has received tremendous support this year from the university and the surrounding
community, we have a variety of writers from several different countries already
nominated for the coming fall, and now, most importantly, we have an outstanding
new leader to continue the proud tradition of the program.
"I am especially grateful to Professor Garrett Stewart and the search
committee for their excellent work in the selection process," he said.
"Its a great honor as well as a challenge to lead the IWP into
the new millennium," Merrill said of his appointment. "In the post-cold-war,
dot-com era we have many new and constantly changing opportunities and challenges.
The United States is the only super power, and we have the challenge of making
ourselves better understood around the world. The opportunity for our students
to learn how we are viewed in other countries from the most articulate members
of those societies is very exciting."
Merrill has taught at Holy Cross since 1995 and has published in a wide variety
of literary forms. He is the author of three collections of poems, including
"Watch Fire," for which he received the Peter I.B. Lavan Award for
younger poets from the Academy of American Poets; four book-length works of
translation; several edited volumes; and three volumes of non-fiction, with
a fourth volume forthcoming, all of which concern his travels through foreign
UI President Mary Sue Coleman said, "I was extremely impressed with
all the candidates for this important position, and I am delighted that Professor
Merrill will be joining us and providing leadership for the International
Brooks Landon, chair of the English department, added "The English department
is very excited at the prospect of having a poet/critic/non-fiction writer
of the stature of Christopher Merrill join the faculty."
Merrills poetry, fiction, essays, articles and translations have appeared
in many books, magazines and literary journals, ranging from the anthologies
"Poems for a Small Planet" and "The Pushcart Prize XV: The
Best of the Small Presses" to periodicals including The Antioch Review,
Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Fiction Review and Sports Illustrated.
He has also had articles, reviews and commentaries in the Albuquerque Journal,
Houston Chronicle, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Orion Magazine, Quarterly
West, Salt Lake City Deseret News, San Francisco Chronicle, Santa Fe New Mexican
and National Public Radios "All Things Considered."
"I like to think that working in a variety of genres enables me to understand
the particular challenges writers face in every discipline," Merrill
His most recent book, "Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan
Wars," has received extensive critical praise. A starred review in Publishers
Weekly stated, "this book might very well become a modern classic about
what once again seems a painful and incomprehensible corner of Europe."
National Book Award winner and UI Writers Workshop graduate Bob Shacochis
wrote, "Theres no finer, more eloquent book written about the Balkans
-- its literature and cultures, its blood-soaked history and deluded politics,
and certainly its fascinating people -- than Christopher Merrills Only
The Nails Remain."
Merrill once said, "I view all writing as a journey through the language
and often through physical space." Living that belief, he has traveled
extensively in Central and Eastern Europe over the past decade and taught
at the Open Society Institute/University of Sarajevo, once giving a series
of lectures on English literature in an unheated building on "Snipers
He has translated two books by the leading young Slovenian poet Ales Debeljak
and a large portion of the poems in "Feast," a new book by Tomaz
Salamun, a Yugoslavian writer who attended the International Writing Program
in the1970s. He has also translated works by Andre Breton, Paul Eluard, Rene
Char, Paul Celan and Bosnian writer Ferida Durakovic. In 1997, Merrill received
the Translation Award from the Slovenian Ministry of Culture.
He has participated in activities of the Flying Cafe Europa, a group of artists
and writers from Eastern and Central Europe. He was founder and director of
the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Literary Center, and director of both the Santa
Fe Writers Conference and the Taos Conference on Writing and the Natural
World. He originated the Orion Societys Forgotten Language Tour, which
over the past eight years has brought scores of nature writers to more than
30 states around the country.
At Holy Cross, Merrill has created an international reading series and an
annual Literary Octoberfest.
Merrill received a bachelors degree with honors from Middlebury College
in Vermont and a master's from the University of Washington.
Founded in 1967, the IWP was the first international writers residency at
a university, and it remains unique in world literature. The IWP brings established
writers of the world to the University of Iowa, where they become part of
the lively literary community on campus. Over the years, more than a thousand
writers from more than 100 countries have completed residencies in the program.
For the coming year, nominations have been received for writers from Asia,
Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America to fill 20 available spaces
in the IWPs fall residency.