Iowa Writers' Workshop

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A The Dey House.
Dey House at the Writers' Workshop

The Iowa Writers' Workshop, at the University of Iowa, is a celebrated[1] graduate-level creative writing program in the United States. The writer Lan Samantha Chang is its director. Graduates earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Creative Writing. It has been cited as the best graduate writing program in the nation,[2] counting among its alumni 17 Pulitzer Prize winners.



The Program in Creative Writing, at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, is more commonly known as the Iowa Writers' Workshop[1] graduate-level creative writing program in the United States.

Graduates earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in English. Iowa has the oldest creative writing program in the country offering an MFA credential.[7]

Faculty and alumni[edit]

See category: Iowa Writers' Workshop alumni

As of September 2020, the workshop's faculty are Jamel Brinkley, Charles D'Ambrosio, Margot Livesey in fiction; Ethan Canin in English and creative writing; James Galvin, Mark Levine, Tracie Morris, Elizabeth Willis in poetry; Marilynne Robinson; and Program Director Lan Samantha Chang. Visiting faculty are Alexia Arthurs, Tom Drury and Amy Parker.[8]

Curriculum and courses[edit]

The program's curriculum requires students to take a small number of classes each semester, including the Graduate Fiction Workshop or Graduate Poetry Workshop itself, and one or two additional literature seminars. The modest requirements are intended to prepare the student for the realities of professional writing, where self-discipline is paramount. The graduate workshop courses meet weekly. Before each three-hour class, a small number of students submit material for critical reading by their peers. The class itself consists of a round-table discussion during which the students and the instructor discuss each piece. The specifics of how the class is conducted vary from teacher to teacher and between poetry and fiction workshops. The ideal result is not only that authors come away with insights into the strengths and weaknesses of their own work, but that the class as a whole derives insight, whether general or specific, about the process of writing.[7]

Pulitzer Prizes won by graduates and faculty[edit]

As of 2018, faculty and graduates affiliated with the Iowa Writers' Workshop have won 29 Pulitzer Prizes, including 18 won by alumni since 1947, as well as numerous National Book Awards and other literary honors. Eight U.S. Poets Laureate have been graduates of the workshop.[when?] Graduates and faculty of the University of Iowa have won over 40 Pulitzer Prizes.[9]




  • Karl Shapiro, 1945 Pulitzer for V-Letter and Other Poems, former faculty member.
  • Robert Lowell, 1947 Pulitzer for Lord Weary's Castle, 1974 Pulitzer for The Dolphin, former faculty member.
  • Robert Penn Warren, 1958 Pulitzer for Poems 1954–56, Now and Then, 1980 Pulitzer for Poems 1976–78, former faculty member.
  • W. D. Snodgrass, 1960 Pulitzer for Heart's Needle, BA, 1949; MA, 1951; MFA, 1953.
  • John Berryman, 1965 Pulitzer for 77 Dream Songs, former faculty member.
  • Anthony Hecht, 1968 Pulitzer for The Hard Hours, attended Workshop but did not graduate.
  • Donald Justice, 1980 Pulitzer for Selected Poems, alumnus and former faculty member.
  • Carolyn Kizer, 1985 Pulitzer for Yin, former faculty member.
  • Rita Dove, 1987 Pulitzer for Thomas and Beulah, MFA, 1977.
  • Mona Van Duyn, 1991 Pulitzer for Near Changes, MA, English, 1943.
  • James Tate, 1992 Pulitzer for Selected Poems, MFA, 1967.
  • Louise Glück, 1993 Pulitzer for The Wild Iris, former faculty member.
  • Philip Levine, 1995 Pulitzer for The Simple Truth, MFA, 1957; former faculty member.
  • Jorie Graham, 1996 Pulitzer for The Dream of the Unified Field, MFA, English, 1978; former faculty member.
  • Charles Wright, 1998 Pulitzer for Black Zodiac, MFA, 1963.
  • Mark Strand, 1999 Pulitzer for Blizzard of One, MA, 1962; former faculty member.
  • Robert Hass, 2008 Pulitzer for Time and Materials, frequent visiting faculty member.
  • Philip Schultz, 2008 Pulitzer for Failure, MFA, English, 1971.


  1. ^ a b Edward J. Delaney (August 2007). "Where Great Writers are Made". The Atlantic.
  2. ^ "The 10 Best Creative Writing Programs | The Best Schools". The Best Schools. Retrieved December 2, 2017.
  3. ^ Bennett, Eric (February 10, 2014). "How Iowa Flattened Literature". MFA vs. NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction. Faber and Faber and n+1. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  4. ^ "History | Iowa Writers' Workshop | College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | the University of Iowa".
  5. ^ John McMurtrie (January 26, 2015). "John Leggett, former director of Iowa Writers' Workshop, dies at 97". SF Chronicle. Retrieved January 31, 2015.
  6. ^ "Iowa Writer's Workshop History".
  7. ^ a b Maureen Howard (May 25, 1986). "Can Writing Be Taught in Iowa?". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "People | Iowa Writers' Workshop | College of Liberal Arts & Sciences | the University of Iowa".
  9. ^ "Pulitzer Prizes Awarded to UI Faculty Members or Alumni". University of Iowa. Archived from the original on July 27, 2005.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°40′01″N 91°32′06″W / 41.667°N 91.535°W / 41.667; -91.535