CEDAR FALLS – The North American Review, the nation’s oldest literary journal, has made its home at the University of Northern Iowa for the last 50 years. The celebrated literary journal will celebrate its golden anniversary on campus with a writing conference on Friday through Sunday.
Writers, teachers and scholars will gather from around the country to share their work and participate in workshops led by prominent featured writers. Terry Tempest Williams, NAR contributing editor, author, conservationist and activist, will present the keynote reading at 7:30 pm. Friday at Lang Hall Auditorium. A reception and book signing will follow
Williams’ writing is influenced by her western upbringing in Utah and Mormon culture and explores ecology, wilderness preservation, women’s health and human relationships between culture and nature. She is author of “The Hour of Land: A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks,” “When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice,” “Finding Beauty in a Broken World,” and “The Illuminated Desert,” among others.
She has received numerous awards, including the Robert Marshall Award from the Wildness Society and the distinguished achievement award from the Western American Literature Association.
Featured writers, including award-winning essayist and poet Taylor Brorby, American writer of fantasy Kij Johnson and poet Martín Espada, will host workshops, readings and lectures throughout the day Saturday and Sunday.
Founded in 19th century Boston, North American Review “has been home for the most important writing and writers whose voices have amplified and shaped the conversation of what is America, and continues to be a participant in that discussion. You can read the history of American culture and thought in its pages,” said Jeremy Schraffenberger, NAR editor and UNI associate professor of English.
American writers and thinkers whose work has appeared in NAR include Washington Irving, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, Walt Whitman, John Steinbeck, Thomas Wolf, Isaac Asimov, Flannery O’ Connor and many others, as well as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and nine other presidents.
NAR was purchased by controversial publisher Joseph Hilton Smyth in 1938. Publication ceased in 1940 when Smyth was sentenced to prison as a Japanese spy. In 1964 American poet Robert Dana resurrected the magazine at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. Dana served as Iowa’s poet laureate from 2004 to 2008. University of Northern Iowa President J.W. “Bill” Maucker purchased the North American Review in 1968 for $10,000. UNI’s first NAR issue was published in spring 1969, said Schraffenberger.
Robley Wilson, novelist, poet, educator and former UNI professor, served as editor from 1969 to 2000. A memorial service for Wilson, who died in August, will take place at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the UNI Commons Ballroom during the conference welcome.
NAR will launch its redesigned summer issue at the writing conference. Most importantly, the magazine will feature newly a discovered poem by Allen Ginsberg, considered one of the most important 20th century American poets. An original portrait by artist Gary Kelley will accompany the poem. The conference also serves as a learning laboratory for the magazine, educating students on what it takes to produce a national magazine.
A poster exhibition will be displayed at the conference. A joint contest between NAR and Imagining America, a new campus organization headed up by Angela Waseskuk in the art department, took place this spring. Artists and designers were invited to respond to Terry Tempest Williams’ concept of “The Open Space of Democracy.” Posters by winners Rebecca Nielsen and Chris Corkery will be featured, along with posters by 40 finalists.
The writing conference is free and open to the public. For more information, including a full schedule and how to register, visit nar-conference.uni.edu/.