IWP Director Christopher Merrill will read from his new memoir, Self-Portrait With Dogwood. In the course of researching dogwood trees, poet and essayist Merrill realized that a number of formative moments in his life had some connection to the tree named—according to one writer—because its fruit was not fit for a dog. As he approached his sixtieth birthday, Merrill began to compose a self-portrait alongside this tree whose lifespan is comparable to a human’s and that, from an early age, he’s regarded as a talisman. This memoir provides new ways of thinking about personal history, the environment, politics, faith, and the power of the written word.
Merrill is the author of numerous books including poetry collections Boat, Brilliant Water, and Watch Fire; many edited volumes and translations; nonfiction Things of the Hidden God and The Tree of the Doves. He most recently published a collaboration with Marvin Bell called After the Fact: Scripts & Post Scripts. Merrill directs the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa, serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO, has conducted cultural diplomacy missions in over thirty countries for the U.S. State Department, and in 2012 President Obama appointed Merrill to the National Council on the Humanities.
“Merrill, like the dogwood seeds and seedlings, roams the planet, appearing or pausing at unexpected moments in history. The migrant trees sink their roots in various foreign soils; the man, though wandering―even in zones of war―remains rooted in the humus of poetry.” ― Eliot Weinberger