Opinion | It would be a shame not to take advantage of literature in Iowa City

There are a slew of unique literary opportunities in Iowa City that more students should take advantage of.


Tate Hildyard

Brooklyn author, Jia Tolentino gives a reading at Prairie Lights from her book of essays, Trick Mirror on Tuesday, February 18th, 2020. Trick Mirror received rave reviews from publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Vox.

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Columnist

One of Iowa City’s greatest hidden gems is its literary scene. From the numerous on-campus literary magazines to readings at Prairie Lights bookstore, there are plenty of opportunities to engage with literature and writing.

While Iowa is known for corn, soybeans, and fertile farmland, it is also home to the University of Iowa’s world-renowned creative-writing program. Starting in 1936, Iowa was the first place to give creative-writing degrees in the country.

Despite the English-Philosophy Building being known as the “dingiest” building on campus, a number of accolades have come from people who may have called that building a second home. Close to 30 MFA graduates have received Pulitzer Prizes, and eight graduates have become Poets Laureate.

Not only is Iowa City known for its top-tier creative-writing program, but it is also a UNESCO City of Literature. It is the third in the world and first in the U.S. There is a slew of qualifications needed to become a UNESCO City of Literature, including diverse and quality publishing, as well as literary events and festivals.

As an English and creative-writing major, I have often been encouraged to be a part of these spaces by professors, peers, and advisers. However, most of these experiences are open to anyone. Prairie Lights hosts readings from a variety of writers, many of whom graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Although stifled by COVID-19, Prairie Lights is back with virtual readings and conversations with authors. There are several nonprofits who aim to provide literary opportunities in the community.

The writer’s room is a nonprofit that works to create safe spaces for writers in the community to learn and engage in the literary scene together. I work for the nonprofits Iowa City Speaks and Iowa City Poetry that provide workshops, events like Poetry Al Fresco with spoken word opportunities, and more in the community.

Once you are aware of these opportunities and organizations, you’ll see that they are all around the city.

Literature is an integral part of Iowa City. It is not only beneficial on a personal level to be able to find community in writing and reading, but it is beneficial to the public health of the community as a whole. Creating Healthy Communities suggests the arts are beneficial to addressing collective trauma, racism, chronic disease, social isolation or exclusion, and mental health.

Literary arts are one way for us to connect to one another and create communities of healing. If you are ever looking to get more involved in the community of Iowa City, look for a literary reading, workshop, or event.

Although there are many ways to explore Iowa City, it would be a shame to miss out on the literary scene.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.