Kenney’s Bar

Kenney’s Bar

125 South Clinton St.

Once located on the west side of Clinton St., Kenney’s Bar was a very popular place for the Writer’s Workshop participants at this time. “Since my Iowa days I’ve heard that Kenney’s has appeared more in American novels than any other bar.” – Philip F O’Connor, “The Fellowship” A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

The former location of Irene Kenney’s Bar in now Hill’s Bank in downtown Iowa City. Inside the lobby at Hill’s Bank, a large photograph shows the block of South Clinton in the early 1960s: in the photograph, you can see Irene Kenney’s bar in the lower right-hand corner.


Charles Wright at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop

Charles Wright recalls his time in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the book A Community of Writers:

Stories. Many Stories. Some repeatable, some not. Nights at Kenney’s Tavern. The Famous Pig Roast at Nick Crome’s farm when Don organized a high-jumping contest over the pig still on the pit, the coals still glowing. Couples straying impassioned burgeoning spring leaves and long grasses of the adjoining fields […] Later, knife-throwing contest in Al Lee’s apartment […]

Citation: Wright, Charles. “Improvisations on Donald Justice.” A Community of Writers: Paul Engle and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Ed. Robert Dana. Iowa City: U of Iowa, 1999. 186-92. Print.


John Berryman at Kenney’s Bar

John Berryman once had an intense argument with a fellow professor, and

when the workshop was over, Berryman retreated to [Irene] Kenney’s Bar and began drinking heavily, arguing with anyone unlucky enough to get in his way.

Mariani, Paul L. Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman. New York: W. Morrow, 1990. Print.

Literary Reference

Philip Levine at Kenney’s Bar

Philip Levine’s work was included in an anthology of poems about Kenney’s, a famous bar in Iowa City. Kenney’s is no longer in operation, but it was a well-known hangout for writers in town. The collection also includes works by Marvin Bell, Stephen Berg, William Dickey, Paul Engle, Peter Everwine, Anselm Hollo, Donald Justice, Vern Rutsala, William Stafford, Mark Strand, James Tate, Mona Van Duyn and many others.

Kenney’s: Twenty Poems For a Lost Tavern. City, IA: The Windhover Press, 1970.