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University of Iowa News Release


April 7, 2008

Photos (from top): Robert Hass, Philip Schultz, David Lang.

UI poets Hass and Schultz, and composer Lang win 2008 Pulitzer Prizes

The 2008 Pulitzer Committee awarded two prizes in poetry on Monday, April 7, and both poets have University of Iowa ties. Frequent visiting Writers' Workshop faculty member Robert Hass was honored for "Time and Materials," which also won the National Book Award, and alumnus Philip Schultz, who attended the workshop in fiction, won for "Failure."

Composer David Lang, an alumnus of the UI School of Music, won the Pulitzer Prize in music for "The Little Match Girl Passion."

The UI had two additional finalists in the literary categories: workshop alumnus and former faculty member Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke," the National Book Award winner, was a finalist in the fiction category; and poet Ellen Bryant Voight, who received a Master of Fine Arts from the workshop, was the third poetry finalist.

Hass was a visiting faculty member in the Writers' Workshop in 1995 when he was selected U.S. Poet Laureate, a post he held from 1995 to 1997. He returned to the UI to teach in 2002-03, 2004 and 2006-07.

He has won the MacArthur "Genius" Fellowship and the William Carlos Williams Award, and he has twice received the National Books Critic Circle Award. His first book, "Field Guide," earned the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1973.

Hass' other collections of poetry include "Praise," "Human Wishes" and "Sun Under Wood." He also wrote "Twentieth-Century Pleasures," a book of essays on poetry. He has translated many of the works of Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and is the editor of Thomas Transtromer's "Selected Poems: 1954-1986" and "The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa." He was co-editor of "The Best American Poetry 2001."

A professor of English at the University of California-Berkeley since 1989, Hass was named Educator of the Year in 1997 by the North American Association on Environmental Education. He is a chancellor of the Academic of American Poets.

Schultz founded the Writers Studio in 1987 after directing the graduate creative writing program at New York University for four years and teaching at numerous colleges and universities.

His books include "Living in the Past," "The Holy Worm of Praise," the chapbook "My Guardian Angel Stein," "Deep Within the Ravine" and "Like Wings," and his story stories have been published in the Iowa Review. His work has been honored with the Lamont Prize of the American Academy of Poets, the Levinson Prize from Poetry Magazine and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and has been nominated for the National Book Award.

"I always wanted to be a fiction writer," Schultz said. "I went to Iowa as a fiction writer. In my early 20s I was lucky: stories, whatever I sent out, was published. I got an agent, and I thought I'd be a novelist. Poetry is something I did with my left hand. But all that I wanted to achieve in fiction was happening naturally in poetry.

"The poet was supporting the fiction writer; usually it's the other way around. But in fiction I was absolutely obsessed with writing ‘agenda’ material, talking about material I couldn't distance myself from to write a story. I went to poetry as a relief from that. The more frustrated I became in one, the more successful I became in the other."

Lang, who is one of the founders of the Bang on a Can Festival, has returned to the UI for Bang on a Can performances in Hancher Auditorium, and his music has been premiered by Iowa Percussion. Bang on a Can performed the Hancher Millennium Festival world premieres of the works it later performed at the 2000 Olympic Festival in Sydney, including "Haircult," co-composed by Lang.

"There is no name yet for this kind of music," wrote Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed of Lang's work. His music has been heard and acclaimed world wide, in performances by the Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Santa Fe Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Kronos Quartet; at Tanglewood, the BBC Proms, the Munich Biennale, the Settembre Musica Festival, the Sidney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival, and the Almeida, Holland, Berlin and Strasbourg Festivals.

Recent projects include monumental musical environments like the dark and meditative amplified orchestra piece "The Passing Measures; Writing on Water" for the London Sinfonietta, with visuals by English filmmaker Peter Greenaway; "Shelter" for trio medaeival and musikFabrik, with co-composers Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe; "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field" -- an opera for the Kronos Quartet; "Grind to a Halt" for the San Francisco Symphony; "World to Come," a commission for cellist Maya Beiser from Carnegie Hall, and "loud love songs," a concerto for the percussionist Evelyn Glennie and orchestra.

More than 40 Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded to UI faculty members and alumni, including more than 25 prizes to writers associated with the Writers' Workshop. Currently, two workshop faculty are Pulitzer winners -- workshop alumnus James Alan McPherson, who won for the short-story collection "Elbow Room," and Marilynne Robinson, who won the prize in 2005 for the novel "Gilead."

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School of Music in a unit in the college's Division of Performing Arts.

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