Paul Engle

Paul Engle

1945 - 1991
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Andre Dubus in Iowa, with Paul Engle

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

Dubus writes about his stay in Iowa in his essay collection Broken Vessels: Essays.

These days I barely have the heart, the will, to do something as insignificant as writing fiction. I cannot write about something as trifling as my life at Iowa, where my first wife and I thought we were poor because we had four children and a twenty-four-hundred-dollar a year assistantship and surplus food every month and I sold blood for twenty-five dollars a pint every three months and earned a hundred dollars a month teaching the Britannica Schools Correspondence Course; in my final year Richard Braddock and Paul Engle gave me a thirty-six-hundred-dollar assistantship, and we were no longer eligible for surplus food.

Dubus, Andre. Broken Vessels: Essays. Open Road Media: New York (2010).


Flannery O’Connor Meets Paul Engle

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

Flannery O’Connor was accepted to the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1945 and obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in 1947. She was then offered a post-doctoral fellowship at the Workshop and spent another year in Iowa City.

The story of her arrival at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, situated at the beginning of theComplete Stories, is many readers’ first image of the eccentrically named author: a woman, plainspoken, charming, shy and yet sure of her self, and with good reason, the story suggests, for she had been exceptional all along.

Her scholarship was is journalism, but she called on the director of the Writers’ Workshop, named Paul Engle, and made a special request in her best Deep South voice. He asked her to say it again. She did so. He looked at her as if she had spoken in tongues. The he gave her pad and pencil and asked her to write it down. In her schoolteacherly script, she explained herself: My name is Flannery O’Connor. I am not a journalist. Can I come to the Writers’ Workshop? 


Elie, Paul. The Life You save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. 145.


Paul Engle Creates the International Writing Program

Shambaugh House
430 North Clinton Street

In 1967, Paul and Hualing Engle founded the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa.

The notion to start a program for foreign writers came to her one day in 1966, while she and Engle were on an outing at the Coralville Reservoir. As Paul swam, she thought about her troubles integrating into the community of writers that Engle had brought to Iowa City. When he rejoined her for a boat ride on the lake, she mentioned her desire to start a similar program exclusively for established foreign writers. His immediate reaction was: “That’s the craziest idea I’ve ever heard!”

The idea worked and today over 1,500 writers have attented the IWP. In 1976, over three hundred writers nominated the Engles for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Alumni, University of Iowa. “Brothers and Sisters of the Pen.” Iowa Alumni Magazine: Brothers and Sisters of the Pen, 1987


Richard Yates, Paul Engle, Kurt Vonnegut, Andre Dubus and Robert Lacy in Iowa City

The Andre Dubus House
502 Brown Street

Robert Lacy remembers his time in Iowa, with Richard Yates, Paul Engle, Kurt Vonnegut, Andre Dubus

We did a great deal of partying in those years. It seems to have been a partying era. And one of the places we partied most often was the little white frame house on Brown Street, not far from the campus, where Andre Dubus lived with his wife, Pat, and their four kids. Andre had resigned his commissions as a captain in the Marines to come to Iowa and study writing. He and Pat were on welfare and received government-surplus food such as cheese and rice and peanut butter. Their house had a big kitchen with a wooden picnic table in it that served as the dining table. We would gather around that table, drinking and talking and snacking on government cheese. Verlin Cassill and Kurt Vonnegut and sometimes even Paul Engle, the Iowa workshop’s founder and director, used to appear at these parties — Engle once arriving with a mixed case of gin and whisky he’d purchased with workshop money from the state-run liquor store on the other side of town. Yates could often be found asleep on the couch in Dubus’s front room. He would have spent the afternoon drinking alone at the Airliner and would be using the Dubuses’ sofa to sleep it off.


Lacy, Robert. “Richard Yates in Iowa.” The Sewanee Review.  vol. 118, no. 3, 2010, 422-428.


Robert Lowell at the Jefferson Hotel

The Jefferson Hotel
129 E. Washington St. (Current Jefferson Building)

Robert Sullivan remembers receiving a phone call from Robert Lowell when he was staying at the Jefferson Hotel in downtown Iowa City:

[There was a call] from the Jefferson Hotel, not more than a mile or two from our apartment. The caller was Robert Lowell. I had not seen him or been in touch with him since Easter weekend, 1943, when he and Jean Stafford were living with Allen and Caroline T?te. I was surprised that Cal [Lowell’s nickname] remembered me, more surprised that he knew I was in Iowa, and even more surprised that he had found somebody, most likely Paul Engle, the director of the Writers’ Workshop, who knew how we could be reached. Cal even knew that I was married, and he invited Jane and me to come to his room. He was lonely. Would we come?

Sullivan, Walter. “Carousing With People, Walking with Dogs in Iowa City.” The Sewanee Review 112.4 (2004): 570-83. JSTOR. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Web. 29 Aug. 2016.


Robert Lowell’s correspondence with Paul Engle

University of Iowa Main Library
125 West Washington St.

A number of Robert Lowell and Paul Engle’s correspondences and handwritten letters are housed in the Special Collection at the University of Iowa Main Library. These letters discuss a wide range of topics, including Lowell’s teaching offers at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, discussions on John Berryman and Allen Tate, and Lowell’s Guggenheim.

All of these letters can be requested to view at the Special Collections on the 3rd floor at the Main Library on campus. Plan your Visit

Records of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 1965-. Iowa Writers’ Workshop. University of Iowa. Libraries. Special Collections Department. 1965


Robert Penn Warren Visits Paul Engle

Paul Engle's Home
1218 Friendly Ave., Iowa City, IA

When Robert Penn Warren visited Iowa City, he very often stayed with Paul Engle. In 1945, Warren wrote a letter to Engle at 1218 Friendly Avenue, discussing the visit he would soon make, and how much he was looking forward to staying at Engle’s home again. This letter can be viewed at Special Collections, in the UI Main Library.

Special Collections, in the UI Main Library

Paul Engle (1908 – 1991), noted American poet, editor, teacher, literary critic, novelist, and playwright. He acted as the long-time director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and as the founder of the International Writing Program (IWP), both at the University of Iowa.


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