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Release: Oct. 11, 2000

Gov. Vilsack declares Oct. 12 Paul Engle Day in Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A proclamation by Gov. Tom Vilsack designates Thursday, Oct. 12 as Paul Engle Day in Iowa. The proclamation coincides with the University of Iowa’s inauguration of the annual Paul Engle Literary Festival.

Engle, a poet who was a native of Cedar Rapids and an alumnus of Coe College and the UI, was long-time director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the UI and co-founder of the UI International Writing Program (IWP). Oct. 12 was his birthday.

The proclamation reads:

WHEREAS, IOWA POET PAUL ENGLE BROUGHT THE LITERARY WORLD TO IOWA; AND

WHEREAS, HE DID MORE FOR THE CAUSE OF WRITERS THAN ANYONE IN HIS TIME; AND

WHEREAS, HE SHAPED THE IOWA WRITERS’ WORKSHOP AT THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA, BRINGING WRITERS FROM OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD. THESE WRITERS IN TURN "SEEDED THE WORLD" WITH WHAT THEY LEARNED UNDER HIS TUTELAGE; AND

WHEREAS, HE AND HIS WIFE, HAULING NIEH ENGLE, FOUNDED THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA INTERNATIONAL WRITING PROGRAM WHICH IN ITS 33 YEARS OF EXISTENCE HAS BROUGHT NEARLY A THOUSAND WRITERS FROM 115 NATIONS; AND

WHEREAS, THIS PROGRAM IS UNIQUELY RESPONSIVE TO THE WORK AND NEEDS OF CREATIVE WRITERS AND EACH YEAR CREATES A WORLD-WIDE COMMUNITY OF WRITERS; AND

WHEREAS, THE WRITERS HE HAS INFLUENCED ARE SHAPERS OF OPINION ACROSS THE GLOBE, AND THROUGH THEM, IOWA HAS COME TO EXEMPLIFY THE STEADFAST VIRTUES OF THIS COUNTRY AS WELL AS THE CREATIVE ENERGY GROWING FROM THE HEARTLAND; AND

WHEREAS, IN RECOGNITION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF THEIR WORK TO INTERNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE UNITED STATES, THE AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS NOMINATED PAUL AND HUALING NIEH ENGLE FOR THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE IN 1976; AND

WHEREAS, HE HAS BEEN HAILED AS "THE MOST INFLUENTIAL AMERICAN WRITER OF THE 20TH CENTURY" FOR HIS SERVICE TO THE LITERARY COMMUNITY; AND

WHEREAS, THE ENDURING IMPORTANCE OF THE MISSION OF THIS WORK IS RECOGNIZED THROUGHOUT THE WORLD:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, THOMAS J. VILSACK, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF IOWA, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM OCTOBER 12, 2000, AS PAUL ENGLE DAY IN IOWA.

* * *

From humble Iowa roots, Paul Engle became one of the world’s leading cultural figures. Clark Blaise, the Writers’ Workshop alumnus who directed the IWP through most of the 90s, described Engle as "the most influential American writer of the century," for how he transformed the life of the writer in the United States. "He virtually created the literary community of America, and he was writer’s ambassador-at-large to the rest of the world. . . He made the word ‘Iowa’ synonymous with writing and turned Iowa City into the narrative capitol of the world."

At the UI Engle became the first student anywhere to obtain a graduate degree of the basis of a book of poems. That book, "Worn Earth," won the 1932 Yale Younger Poets award, marking Engle as one of the most promising poets on the American literary scene. A New York Times review of his second book hailed him as "a new voice of American poetry."

Soon after he returned to Iowa in from study at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, Engle took over the UI graduate seminar in creative writing. Engle’s vision, enthusiasm and persistence built that course of study into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the most prestigious and influential writing program in the world -- the blueprint for the many creative writing degree programs that now thrive on U.S. campuses.

In 1966 Engle retired from the Writers’ Workshop, but the following year he and his wife, Chinese novelist Hualing Nieh Engle, founded the International Writing Program, a unique residency program for prominent foreign writers. In more than 30 years, nearly 1,000 writers from 115 countries have completed residencies at the UI.

The importance of the IWP to international understanding was recognized in 1976 when the Engles were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1995 the program was honored with the Governor’s Award for distinguished service to the State of Iowa.

Although Engle devoted most of his energy to the UI writing programs, he managed to write 20 books, winning Guggenheim, Ford and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, and the Lamont Award of the Academy of American Poets.

In1990 Engle’s career was recognized with the Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1999 the Iowa magazine "Stand Alone" selected Engle as Iowa’s poet of the century.

In response to his death, Philip Roth said, "I think it’s accurate to say that with his Writers’ Workshop that Paul did as much for serious writing in America as anybody in American history." And Kurt Vonnegut added, "This man did more for other artists than anybody I can think of."

For UI arts information, visit this new address -- www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa -- on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.