American Poet Inspired by Iraq’s Literary Past, Present, and Future
American poet, essayist, and writer Christopher Merrill visited Iraq October 17-23, where he met with Iraqi poets, writers, university professors, students, and government officials to discuss the current state of writing, publishing and translating of literature in Iraq, and to encourage young Iraqis to learn more about poetry and literary figures, both Iraqi and American. Mr. Merrill’s visit was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad through funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
In Baghdad, Merrill met with Deputy Minister of Culture Fawzi al-Atroshy to hear about the city’s aspirations to become the Arab Capital of Culture in 2013, and held a series of meetings with women writers, and poets and writers from the Iraqi Writers Union. Mr. Merrill also met with Iraqi poets Naseer Hassan Flayih and Soheil Najm, alumni of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, where Merrill is the Director. Merrill presented his Iraqi colleagues with information on literary resources, journals and residency programs in the United States, and encouraged them to seek avenues of cooperation to improve the access of Iraqi writers to these international resources.
Merrill also visited with students from the University of Baghdad and Al Mustansiriya University, where he led creative writing workshops on drafting poems and short stories that reflect their daily lives and experiences.
The International Writing Program at the University of Iowa brings together established writers from around the world to Iowa City each fall for creative writing workshops. The U.S. Department of State is a major source of support for the program. Christopher Merrill’s visit is part of the U.S. government’s commitment under the Strategic Framework Agreement to support and promote educational and cultural exchanges between our two countries.