Paul Engle Day


Paul Engle (October 12, 1908 – March 22, 1991), noted American poet, editor, teacher, literary critic, novelist, and playwright. He is perhaps best remembered as the long-time director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and as founder of the International Writing Program (IWP), both at the University of Iowa. At the turn of the millennium, Engle was selected as Iowa’s poet of the century, and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack proclaimed October 12 “Paul Engle Day” in Iowa.


2013 Paul Engle Day

Kwame Dawes, Chancellor Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, has been awarded the 2013 Paul Engle Prize. The prize, established in 2011, honors an individual who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts.  Dawes received the prize, which includes a special plaque and $10,000, during a special ceremony at the Iowa City Book Festival.

In addition the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature has award scholarships to seven high school sophomores from across Iowa for their outstanding entries in the Paul Engle Day: Glory of the Senses 2013 Essay Contest.  Click here for the press-release and list of winners.

2012 Paul Engle Day

The 2012 Paul Engle Celebration featured a screening of the documentary “City of Literature” at the Englert Theatre in downtown Iowa City.

This film follows the story of creative writing in Iowa, from its frontier beginnings to the recognition of Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature.  The screening included a live discussion with former Iowa Poet Laureate Marvin Bell, University of Iowa associate professor of English Loren Glass, and Prairie Lights founder Jim Harris.  The discussion was moderated by Joan Kjaer.

How did Iowa City become a hub for creative writing in America? This hour-long documentary is a story of literary ambition, academic innovation and a promising young Iowa poet who became a cultural entrepreneur.

2011 Paul Engle Day

Our 2011 Paul Engle Celebration featured an essay contest for area high school students as well as the presentation of the first annual Paul Engle Award to noted author and essayist, James Alan McPherson.  The award was presented in a ceremony at the Englert Theatre, Iowa City, IA .  James Alan McPherson is the author of Hue and Cry, Railroad, Elbow Room, Crabcakes, Fathering Daughters, and A Region Not Home. Elbow Room won the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 1978.

Professors and authors Ed Folsom, James Galvin and Michael Hill reflect on James Alan McPherson, his work and accomplishments.

Ed Folsom |
James Galvin |
Michael Hill |

The celebration also featured, Leaner than Light: 12 Frames of Paul Engle, an audio/video adaptation of a stage play. The play was written by Lisa Schlesinger; the video was created by Lisa DiFranza and mastered by Ben Schmidt.

Click here to download the program for Leaner than Light.

“Leaner than Light” is made possible by Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Additional support provided by Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature, The University of Iowa International Writing Program and The University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts.