Robert Dana

Robert Dana

1952 - 1954
  • 41.663250
  • 41.660720
  • 41.659230
  • 41.663679
  • 41.663679

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.


Lan Samantha Chang, James Alan McPherson, Chris Offutt, Marvin Bell, Robert Dana Fifteenth Anniversary reading

Prairie Lights Bookstore
15 South Dubuque Street, Iowa City Iowa

In this celebration of fifteen years of Live From Prairie Lights a line-up of prominent writers who have read from their work on “Live from Prairie Lights” including UI Writers’ Workshop alumna Mary Swander; Jane Hamilton; Dorothy Allison; Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Writers’ Workshop; Karen Joy Fowler; Colson Whitehead; Writers’ Workshop faculty members James Alan McPherson, James Galvin, Chris Offutt and Marvin Bell; Iowa Poet Laureate Robert Dana; David Hamilton, editor of the Iowa Review; Nonfiction Writing Program faculty member Patricia Foster; and Christopher Merrill, director of the UI International Writing Program will offer remarks or read selections to express their response to the “Live From Prairie Lights” 15th Anniversary. In addition, the audience was treated to clips from other authors who have visited the program throughout the years.

University of Iowa Libraries, Virtual Writing University archive


Robert Dana at Donnelly’s Pub

Donnelly's Pub
110 E. College St.

Robert Dana recalls his time in Iowa City, including spending time with other writers in Donnelly’s Pub:

“I remember saying embarrassed and inane things to a nonplussed Steven Spender one night in Donnelly’s basement bar…”

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


Robert Dana on the Quonset Huts

The Quonset Huts acted as temporary structures on the University of Iowa campus, and were the location of Iowa Writer’s Workshop classes in the early 1950’s. They remained on the east side of the Iowa River after World War II. “None of the classrooms in these huts had air conditioning,” writes Workshop graduate Robert Dana of the buildings “and when the rain drummed down on them, all talk ceased […] Nonetheless, the workshop quarters were basically humble..”

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


Robert Dana, Robert Lowell in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop


Poet Robert Dana describes his experience in the Iowa Iowa Writers’ Workshop, including his class with Robert Lowell, and eating at the Iowa Memorial Union:

In addition to Lowell’s workshop class, there was the more or less impromptu one we ourselves convened around the lunch table once or twice a week in the dingy and steaming cafeteria in the basement of the old Student Union: a kind of expanding and contracting court of complaint, a floating seminar in practical criticism, a rump parliament in literary theory, where we fed on each other’s praise and harkened to each other’s criticisms. Poems were handed around, sometimes scribbled on, lamented over. The talk was free-wheeling, unfettered, sometimes even preposterous. No telling how many bad lines and bad poems perished in those sessions. Probably not enough. But our little seminar brought us together in knowledge and ignorance and friendship.

Dana, Robert. “Far from the Ocean: Robert Lowell at Iowa, 1953.” The North American Review 282.5 (1997): 48-52. Web.

Robert Dana was an American poet, and author of many collections of poetry including. He attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, taught at Cornell College, and edited The North American Review. Dana was the poet laureate for the State of Iowa from 2004 to 2008.


Library of Congress URI