Donald Justice

Donald Justice

Alumnus Faculty
1952 - 2004
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John Berryman’s class at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, with students Philip Levine, Robert Dana, Donald Justice, W.D. Snodgrass

Students recall their time in the Workshop (when classes were taught in the Quonset Huts by the Iowa River) in the collection Seems like Old Times in the University of Iowa archives:

“…to have been in John Berryman’s extraordinary and intense poetry workshop with W. D. Snodgrass, Donald Justice, Philip Levine, Paul Petrie, Robert Dana, Constance Urdang, Jane Cooper, Donald Finkel, Henri Coulette—the list continues beyond the capacity of my memory, but it was a course I approached with rapture and fear, owing in part to Berryman’s sometimes jagged abruptness, as when, having warned me beforehand that he was going to exhibit the profound mortality of one of my works, he held it out at arm’s length in the class, looked at it with loathing, and said, “Now, what are we to say about this ridiculous poem?”

Dinger, Ed, ed. Seems Like Old Times. Iowa City, 1986. Iowa Writers’ Workshop jubilee. Main; Archives.


Marvin Bell and Donald Justice: Iowa Memorial Union


So, I asked John Logan, what shall I do now? And he said, well, there’s something at the University of Iowa called the Writers’ Workshop. I will send a letter to the poet, who teaches there, Donald Justice, and you can go and be interviewed, and maybe you can do that. So, I took a bus — I thought, Iowa City?…That’s the wilds!…I’m not, I’m not going to drive out there — I took a bus and stayed at a hotel that doesn’t exist anymore, it was downtown. I met Donald Justice in the Iowa Memorial Union the next day, and we talked for a little while, and then … we went bowling! There used to be bowling alleys in the basement of the Union. I was accepted into the Workshop.

Bell, Marvin. “Interview,” The Writing University website

Literary Reference

Raymond Carver and Donald Justice at the Iowa House


In Iowa City, Raymond Carver lived in the Iowa House at the Iowa Memorial Union: his room was two floors above John Cheever’s room, and both of them used to spend the days and nights there, talking and drinking. Donald Justice remembered:

I’d see [Carver] around the offices quite a bit. Our paths crossed mostly in socializing, at parties. I remember a poker game in his room on the Iowa House one Sunday evening in which I lost heavily. Ray bluffed me out of a couple of hands.

Halpert, Sam. Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography. University of Iowa Press, 1995


Raymond Carver and Donald Justice at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Iowa Writers' Workshop (Dey House)
507 North Clinton Street, Iowa City, Iowa

Raymond Carver came to Iowa City as a poetry student in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the fall of 1963, but stayed only until the end of that school year. Next, he was appointed lecturer in the Workshop in the fall of 1974. Due to financial troubles at the time, Carver kept his previous position at University of California Santa Barbara and commuted by air between the two places.

In 1978, Carver received a Guggenheim fellowship and came to teach in Iowa City from March through June. Donald Justice, a poet professor at the workshop, and 1980 Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry, remembers that during that stay Carver and Maryann house-sat for them while Justice and his wife were away for more than a month.

“[Carver] was a student in the poetry workshop I was teaching. In the early seventies […] he came back to teach fiction here. I’d see him around the offices quite a bit. Our paths crossed mostly in socializing, at parties.” – Donald Justice

Halpert, Sam. Raymond Carver: An Oral Biography. Iowa City: U of Iowa, 1995. Print.