AFTER EIGHT years, another Slovak writer, Jana Beňová, has been chosen for the International Writers Program (IWP) of the University of Iowa. Between August 25 and November 13, she is staying in the US as a guest of the Fall Residency Program that includes courses on writing and translation, as well as film screenings, field trips, readings and social gatherings.
“This programme is beneficial for writers because it offers the chance to leave one’s work and family for two-and-a-half months and concentrate on writing,” Beňová wrote to The Slovak Spectator from Iowa City. “As for culture, it is not just the two cultures [Slovak and US, ed. note], but a community of many cultures, and the chance to travel and live on the same hotel floor with writers from Africa, Latin America, Taiwan, Brazil, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. This is probably an opportunity that you could only find in the US.”
The IWP schedule varies and the events are optional, but sometimes having so many options to choose from can prove burdensome: there are weekly public panels on literary issues; a translation workshop; various readings and performances; opportunities for playwrights’ works to be read and staged at the university campus; screenings and debates of films; participation in numerous cultural activities and visits to the homes of faculty or community members and local schools.
Beňová has been accepted as one of 35 participants for the 2012 Iowa IWP. The poet and prose-writer, who has published Park magazine and worked as an editor for the Sme daily, was born in 1974.
“Her poetry is often a mosaic collection of stylised diary entries, reminiscences and notes registered in the voice of a child,” the US Embassy to Slovakia (which organises the programme on the Slovak side) wrote.
In previous years, other Slovak writers have participated in the programme: Michal Hvorecký, a short-story author whose works have been translated into many languages, in 2004; Peter Macsovský, a poet and literary theoretician, in 1997; Mila Haugová, a poet and editor of a literary magazine, in 1996; and Gustáv Murín, an author of fiction and magazine articles, in 1995.
“I wanted to move on, and when I got the offer, it seemed like a good opportunity,” Beňová added. “For me, to switch continents for a while has also meant many life changes.”