The Blog

Game Night and the Writers' Workshop

Maggie Shipstead

This post is part of The 75th Project, a series of essays by graduates of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.

“Game night?”

“Game night.”

“Epic game night?”

“I could do an epic game night.”

This is a conversation I had dozens of times during my second year at Iowa but will probably never have again.

It all started with Big Buck Hunter.


Jane Lewty

In Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novella La Jalousie (1957), the unnamed narrator, whose presence is delineated only by the arrangement of exterior objects, relays his observations from behind a slatted window. Meticulous attention is paid to every nuance of gesture and tone in an intimate relationship, thus producing a composite portrait of an environment. No drastic event occurs but the robotic details of human behavior are revealed for their immense importance as the signifiers of emotion. Marc Rahe’s recent poetry collection, The Smaller Half, operates in much the same manner, but with one difference: the speaker’s shrewd surveillance is part of a human warmth that suffuses the entire collection.


Erika Jo Brown

Let us, for a moment, judge a book by its cover. The title of Jennifer Karmin’s debut poetry collection, aaaaaaaaaaalice, stretches across the span of the book in hollow, clean, orange typeface. Several blue keywords wrap around laterally. The front cover, mostly white space, is modestly embellished with three inky bunnies in the bottommost corner. The astute typography and layout design reflect the accomplishments of the book, which experiments with space and presence in an unpretentious and, frankly, perky way. It is at once socially generous (the keyword “hello” is bolded in salutation), intellectually inquisitive, and aesthetically tickling. aaaaaaaaaaalice is a generous book that innovates its own space in which to breathe and invites the reader to do the same.

2011 Iowa Review Award Winners

TIR staff

We are thrilled to announce the winners of our 2011 contest. In fiction, the winner is John Van Kirk's "Landscape with Boys," about a neighborhood civil war. Fiction judge Allan Gurganus called it "a muscular, comic, ambitious, and very pure piece of writing."

For fiction runner-up, Gurganus chose Suzanne Scanlon's "Her 37th Year, An Index," a story told in alphabetized topic headings, describing it as "a thoroughly engrossing almanac of desire."

Patricia Hampl, nonfiction judge, said her choice for winner, "Life Care Center" by Helen Phillips, "manages its desperate material"—a visit to a severely disabled sister—"without indulgence."

The nonfiction runner-up, "City by the Woods: A Memoir" by Maria Rapoport, was, Hampl writes, "a real consideration of the lingering effects of emigration."


Colin Fleming

The art of Jackson Pollock doesn’t polarize museum-goers as it once did, given his canonization as the patron saint of Abstract Expressionism. But when Pollock was tabbed a mid-century gallery god, there were plenty of people who wondered if his art—like that of Ornette Coleman’s in the late 1950s—wasn’t an outright piss-take. A case of “this isn’t really intended seriously, is it? Surely he’s having a laugh on all of us.” But Americans have come to esteem non-representative painters in a way they’ve never really cared for their native naturalists and portraitists. Perhaps it’s the attendant quality of enigma, or maybe it’s because you could make the argument that Abstract Expressionism is this country’s one indigenous art form.


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