World to visit Lit City

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World to visit Lit City

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Iowa City has been selected to host the 2018 annual meeting of UNESCO Cities of Literature.

By Isabella Senno

[email protected]

Iowa City will entertain representatives from Australia to Poland in April 2018 in the annual meeting of the 20 UNESCO Cities of Literature.

UNESCO is a branch of the United Nations meant to promote international community through celebrating a variety of cultural, arts, and scientific topics. The Cities of Literature is a sub-network of the organization.

“Part of what UNESCO really wants to do is it wants to get cities working together, to lift each other, to give each other ideas, to give each other what in the arts world we call ‘best practices,’ which is basically a way of saying … stuff that gets people involved in the arts,” said Hugh Ferrer, a member of the local City of Literature board.

John Kenyon, executive director of the local City of Literature, said these annual gatherings are meant for collaborative discussion centered on innovation and improvement. The meeting is also meant to showcase the host city’s creative bounty.

“For us to be able to do that is going to be a tremendous opportunity because we can deepen our ties with the other cities in the network and show what it is we have [to] offer here,” Kenyon said. “Then those folks go off into their … corners of the world and know a little bit more about Iowa City and can serve as ambassadors in some ways to let the rest of the world know who we are and what we do here.”

For the past three years, Europe has held a monopoly on the event, with meetings in Heidelberg, Germany, Dublin, Ireland, and Barcelona, Spain. Kenyon said despite being among the smallest cities on UNESCO’s list, the delegates will still learn from Iowa City’s rich atmosphere.

“Iowa City has so many literary and creative-writing institutions from journals like the Iowa Review to the City of Literature itself to the Writers’ Workshop … there are all these ways we have institutions and of working with literature,” Ferrer said.

Kenyon said Iowa City has served as a model for other Cities of Literature, because it is the only one that operates as a nonprofit. George Papagiannis, chief of media services for UNESCO, said Iowa City has also pushed to grow this international community.

“I think that Iowa City … was very instrumental in trying to bring Baghdad [into the Cities of Literature] network,” Papagiannis said. “The writers in Iran who were applying for this … the lifeline to some extent that the [network] provided to them, and [it was] wonderful to have Iowa City in particular to be so strong in advocating for Baghdad to be a part of it.”

All in all, next spring’s meeting will be a chance for Iowa City and the world to meet each other once again.

“You can’t put a price on something like that, and it comes from people who feel that same sense of devotion to the written word in whatever language it is, and they all come together, and they support each other — that’s poetry,” Papagiannis said.

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