Live From Prairie Lights

"Live from Prairie Lights” is an internationally known readings series, which features some of the best up-and-coming and well-established authors & poets from all over the globe. Presented before a live audience and streamed over the world wide web, this long running series brings the spoken word from the bookstore to the masses. Most readings begin @ 7:00 p.m. Arrive early to assure yourself a seat.

The Writing University live streams many of our readings here

The Live from Prairie Lights audio archive is available here.
Iowa City PATV has a video archive of readings located here.
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  • Edward Carey in conversation with Amy Margolis

    January 27, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us to celebrate the release of Edward Carey's new novel, The Swallowed Man with a reading and conversation with Amy Margolis.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny, says of The Swallowed Man: “Art objects live in the belly of this marvelous novel, images swallowed by text, sustained by a sublime and loving imagination. Like all Edward Carey’s work The Swallowed Man is profound and delightful. It is a strange and tender parable of two maddening obsessions; parenting and art-making.” BOOKLIST says, “No Disney fairy tale, this is an illustrated, literary, poignantly erudite study in anguish, guilt, madness, soulsearching, and eventual redemption.”

    Edward Carey is a novelist, visual artist, and playwright. His previous novels include Little, Alva & Irva, and Observatory Mansions, and an acclaimed series for young adults, the Iremonger Trilogy. His writing for the stage includes an adaptation of Robert Coover’s Pinocchio in Venice, a continuation of the Pinocchio story. Born in England, he now teaches at the University of Texas in Austin, where he lives with his wife, the author Elizabeth McCracken, and their family.

    Amy Margolis is the Director of the Iowa Summer Writing Festival at The University of Iowa. She holds an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she was a Teaching-Writing Fellow in fiction. She’s taught fiction and nonfiction writing in the Festival, at The University of Iowa, and as a visiting writer nationwide. Her fiction appears in The Iowa Review. She is currently at work on a memoir-in-shards about her life as a dancer in the late seventies, at the onset of the AIDS crisis.

  • Rebekah J. Kowal, Dancing the World Smaller

    January 28, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us to celebrate Dancing the World Smaller: Staging Globalism in Mid-Century America  with author Rebekah J. Kowal in conversation with Mark Franko, Anthea Kraut, Christopher-Rasheem McMillan, and Emily Wilcox

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Jean-Christophe Agnew, Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University, says of the book: "Dancing the World Smaller offers a fascinating, richly layered account of the literal and figurative choreography by which a transnational assembly of dancers, critics, and impresarios helped mid-century New York lay claim to the status of a global city and helped the U.S. model itself as home to a new globalist imaginary ... Rebekah Kowal masterfully tracks the cultural factions and frictions that energized this lost chapter of dance history, and the result is a remarkable story that speaks just as meaningfully to our own fraught moment in global social and cultural politics." Anthea Kraut, Professor of Dance at the University of California, Riverside, wrote of the book: “Based on extensive archival research, the book not only makes a compelling case for considering ‘ethnic dance’ alongside the dominant forms of modern dance but also shows how performances of cultural ‘otherness’ registered the tensions and ambivalence of US foreign policy. In the process, Kowal deftly historicizes the theorizes one of our most fundamental assumptions about dance – its ability to bridge difference.” The Year’s Work in Critical and Cultural Theory wrote, “Throughout this work, Kowal’s nuanced analysis uncovers the paradoxes of ethnic dance, which catalyzed new forms of cultural inclusion even as it enacted ideas of white supremacy.”

    Rebekah Kowal teaches dance history and theory and serves as the DEO of the Department of Dance. Her research investigates how moving bodies are compelling agents of social, cultural, and political change. A dancer and scholar, Kowal seeks to forge interdisciplinary connections between dance theory and practice. She is the author of How to Do Things with Dance: Performing Change in Postwar America and co-editor with Randy Martin and Gerald Siegmund of The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Politics. Kowal has won awards for her scholarly research including: honorable mention for the Biennial Sally Banes Publication Prize given by the American Society for Theatre Research; the Congress on Research in Dance Outstanding Publication Award; the Society of Dance History Scholars Gertrude Lippincott Award and a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend Award in 2012. In 2020, she received the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Collegiate Scholar Award, recognizing “exceptional achievement” at that time of promotion to Professor. Active in the professional field, Kowal serves as Executive Co-editor of Dance Research Journal

    Mark Franko is Laura H. Carnell Professor of Dance at Temple University where he heads the Institute for Dance Scholarship. His latest book is The Fascist Turn in the Dance of Serge Lifar: French Interwar Ballet and the German Occupation. He is editor of the Oxford Studies in Dance Theory book series.

    Anthea Kraut is Professor in the Department of Dance at UC Riverside, where she teaches courses in critical dance studies.  Her publications include Choreographing the Folk: The Dance Stagings of Zora Neale Hurston (University of Minnesota Press, 2008) and Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender, and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance (Oxford University Press, 2015).

    Christopher-Rasheem McMillan is an assistant professor of Gender Studies and Dance at the University of Iowa and a fellow and visiting assistant professor at Yale University’s Institute of Sacred Music.

    Emily Wilcox is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at William & Mary and an Affiliate of the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan. Wilcox is a leading scholar of Chinese dance and performance, with broader interests in twentieth-century global history, transnationalism, and social movements.

  • Spanish Creative Writing MFA: Student Reading

    January 29, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Students from the University of Iowa’s MFA in Spanish Creative Writing share their work and discuss their approaches to writing in Spanish in the U.S. In this event, students will talk about their experience in communicating in the liminal space between two languages. They will address questions such as: How do you articulate the necessity to live everyday life in a language and then switch to another one for writing? How does distance from your countries of birth affect the way in which these home cultures appear in our writing? What role does cultural translation play in your academic thinking and creative work? What does it mean to be studying creative writing in Iowa City, where the Writers Workshop has stablished such a strong tradition in creative writing in English? Discussion in English about their experience and challenges will be followed by a showing of short prerecorded videos of the MFA students reading excerpts from their recent work in Spanish.  

    To join this virtual event, register here.

  • Fiona Sze-Lorrain in conversation with Christopher Merrill

    February 4, 2021 - 4:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Join us as 4:00 in the afternoon! IWP alum Fiona Sze-Lorrain will read from her new book of poems Rain in Plural, published by Princeton University Press.  She will be joined in conversation by IWP Director and poet, Christopher Merrill.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    "Rain in Plural is a cause for celebration. In recent years, when the world has become too wearying for me, I’ve looked to the poetry of Fiona Sze-Lorrain for her inventive lyricism and her radiant intelligence. There is an exquisite music in this work that is unlike anything else in contemporary poetry. ..Rain in Plural is a collection of glorious and absolute brilliance." David St. John. Fiona Sze-Lorrain has also written the piece, "How Each Line Appears | some loose leaves" in Princeton University Press.

    Fiona Sze-Lorrain is the author of three previous poetry collections, including The Ruined Elegance, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. She has translated more than a dozen books of contemporary Chinese, French, and American poetry and is an accomplished musician, considered a major zheng harpist of her generation.  She lives in Paris.

    Christopher Merrill has published six collections of poetry, most recently Boat and Necessities; many edited volumes and translations; and six books of nonfiction, including Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars and Self-Portrait with Dogwood. As director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa since 2000, Merrill has conducted cultural diplomacy missions to more than fifty countries. 


  • Kathleen Williams Renk in conversation with Mary Helen Stefaniak

    February 5, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading from Vindicated: A Novel of Mary Shelley with author Kathleen Williams Renk in conversation with Mary Helen Stefaniak.

    To access this virtual event, register here.

    Historical Novels Review says of the book: "The language ... dances between poetic, philosophical, and occasionally frightening. ... a beautifully written, engaging novel that will stay with the reader for a long time." Amy Newman, author of On This Day in Poetry History says, “Kathleen Renk has written an engrossing narrative studded with historic detail and the passionate experiences of a woman’s extraordinary life.”

    Kathleen Williams Renk taught British and Women's literature for nearly three decades in the U.S. and abroad. Her scholarly books include Caribbean Shadows and Victorian Ghosts: Women’s Writing and Decolonization (Univ. Press of Virginia,1999), Magic, Science, and Empire in Postcolonial Literature: The Alchemical Literary Imagination (Routledge, 2012), and Women Writing the Neo-Victorian Novel: Erotic "Victorians" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). While earning her Ph.D. at the University of Iowa, Williams Renk studied fiction writing with James Alan MacPherson. Her short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Iowa City MagazineLiterary YardPage and Spine, and CC & D MagazineVindicated is her first novel. Her second novel, In an Artist’s Studio, about the Victorian artists/poets Christina Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal, is currently under consideration with a press in the U.K.

    She will be joined in conversation by Mary Helen Stefaniak, the prize-winning author of The Turk and My Mother, Self Storage and Other Stories, and The Cailiffs of Baghdad, Georgia, which won the 2011 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Fiction. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and professor emerita of creative writing at Creighton University, Mary Helen teaches fiction writing in the M.F.A. Program at Pacific University and in the International Summer School at Renmin University in Beijing. Her third novel, The World of Pondside, is forthcoming from Blackstone Publishing. Mary Helen and her husband John have been Iowa City residents since 1982.

  • Kevin Barry in conversation with Susan Orlean

    February 8, 2021 - 6:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading and conversation with Kevin Barry to celebrate the release of his new story collection, That Old Country Musicwith New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Kirkus starred review says of That Old Country Music, “Barry has the right stuff for short stories. He brings characters to life quickly and then blesses them with his uncanny ear for dialogue and prose rhythms, his compassion and wry wit…Exceptional writing and a thoroughly entertaining collection.”

    Kevin Barry is the author of the highly acclaimed novels Night Boat to Tangier, City of Bohane, and Beatlebone and the short-story collections, Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms. Night Boat to Tangier was longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize, and was on many best of the year lists. Barry was awarded the Rooney Prize in 2007 and won the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award in 2012. For City of Bohane, he was short-listed for the Costa First Novel Award and the Irish Book Award, and won the Author’s Club Best First Novel Prize, the European Union Prize for Literature, and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and elsewhere. He lives in County Sligo in Ireland.

    Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the author of seven books, including Library BookRin Tin TinSaturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation. She splits her time between Los Angeles and the Hudson Valley of New York with her family and her animals.

  • Felicia Rose Chavez, The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom

    February 12, 2021 - 6:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Please join us with the Nonfiction Writing Program for a reading and conversation with Felicia Rose Chavez to celebrate the release of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom. NWP MFA first-year Georgie Fehringer will provide the introduction, and Inara Verzemnieks will be the moderate the discussion.

    In a book that’s part memoir and part teaching guide, Felicia Rose Chavez exposes the invisible politics of power and privilege that have silenced writers of color for far too long. An MFA graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Chavez addresses the climate of the creative writing classroom and the need for pedagogical and philosophical transformations to create authentically inclusive communities. Publishers Weekly notes that “the mindfulness and generosity that guide her teaching principles will resonate with other scholars and students who have been working to diversify creative writing and English literature programs.” Chavez is an award-winning writer and teacher whose work has appeared in Kenyon ReviewBlack Warrior Review, and Brevity, among other publications. She is the co-editor of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT and the founder of GirlSpeak, a feminist webzine for high school students. For more information about The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, and to access a multi-genre compilation of contemporary writers of color and progressive online publishing platforms, please visit

  • Caryl Pagel and Lauren Shapiro

    February 26, 2021 - 7:00pm

    Prairie Lights Virtual - Zoom

    Please join us for a reading and conversation with poets Caryl Pagel and Lauren Shapiro, to celebrate the release of their new books, Out of Nowhere Into Nothing and Arena.

    To join this virtual event, register here.

    Hanif Abdurraqib, author of Go Ahead in the Rain: Notes to a Tribe Called Quest says of Caryl Pagel's new book: "I appreciate Out Of Nowehere Into Nothing for how gently and generously it cares for the flawed and faulty machine of memory. Pagel is a thoughtful and skilled storyteller, weaving together narratives in a way that centers itself on trust and reliability. Reading this book was like hearing from an old friend, and having all of your favorite recollections painted back in."

    Lauren Shapiro's Arena is an Editor's Choice for the 2019 CSU Poetry Center Open Book Competition. Suzanne Buffam says of the book, “Keen-witted, caustic, and resolutely dry-eyed, these poems register a collective alarm in which private grief and global dread converge ‘at the pace of adrenaline.’”

    Caryl Pagel is the author of two books of poetry and an essay collection, Out of Nowhere Into Nothing (FC2, 2020). She is the co-founder of Rescue Press, a poetry editor at jubilat, and the director of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Pagel teaches poetry and nonfiction in the NEOMFA program in northeast Ohio.

    Lauren Shapiro is the author of Arena (CSU Poetry Center, 2020), and Easy Math (Sarabande, 2013), which was the winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the Debut-litzer Prize for Poetry. With Kevin González, she co-edited The New Census: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (Rescue Press, 2013). She is an associate professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University.