Every summer the University of Iowa welcomes high school-aged artists from around the country and the world to Iowa City for the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio (IYWS). Accepted students have the option to study poetry, fiction or creative writing with practicing artists and University of Iowa professors.
Author and Writers’ Studio instructor Christine Utz encouraged her students to produce a series of original flash works for Little Village inspired by their stay in the City of Literature. In past years, members of the IYWS shared their work in live readings and on KRUI radio.
“I’ve received a renewed faith and excitement about writing by seeing the process through their eyes,” said Utz. “They’re all so talented, I’m just so impressed with them.”
Walking Through a Place That Isn’t Mine
By Elise Norton, Colorado
In the mornings, before coffee, I wander up and down alleys just to move through air that feels like hands running across my arms. It’s quiet here, like everyone is thinking. I’m from Denver, and everyone in Denver is high, which means everyone in Denver believes they are thinking, but aren’t. I’m tired of people who believe they are thinking. I’m still restless for Denver’s glamour and breathlessness but can’t get truly homesick when I look at the way everyone holds their faces here, softly and comfortably. Maybe it’s just that people here hold their faces in an earnest way. Unpretentious. Something real. This morning I woke earlier than usual and sat next to a pile of trash while waiting for my favorite café to open. A woman smiled at me and I realized I had forgotten to smile back, and, in the moment, I forgot what I was supposed to be doing here in Iowa. I’m supposed to be writing. I wondered why being away from home has either always clarified my intentions or muddied them or both. It’s hard to breathe when the air here is too easy to breathe. It’s hard to think here when I can hear too many of my thoughts. In the quiet clarity of Iowa City, I realize I am the type of writer who dislikes making sense of things and can’t make sense of things but does anyway. I watched a building with blue window panes for half an hour. I imagined what the passing of time might do to a building like this. I noted the things that would erode the easiest, imagined decades of dust collecting and calcifying in the seams. For a moment I considered if the building would just fall into Iowa City the same way I’ve fallen into Iowa City — silent, disoriented — but everyone here is supposed to be writing, so I’m sure someone else has written to preserve this building, and I’m sure someone else also forgot about what they were doing here and still felt somewhat at home.
People Watching in Iowa City
By Violet Myles, Pennsylvania
A girl holds the door open for a group of people. They have all gone through the door and into the building. She has been holding the door open for so long I am beginning to think she might never enter it herself. I worry that she is letting all the cold air out. I watch a woman laugh loudly with the man she is walking with. He is laughing too and then they are talking about something else but she is still thinking about how loud she has just laughed. A man in a baseball cap is holding a cigarette and weeping silently on a park bench in the center of town. He has no other place to weep. There is only here, on this bench. I am thinking about what it might be like to have sex with the stranger sitting next to me. He crosses and uncrossed his legs. I wonder if he is thinking this too.
For the girl at the pentecrest with the vespa, Happy Birthday
By Nolan Kelly, Colorado
In the manifold Midwest
Architypes there’s no classification
For the immediacy of one’s home and
Sometimes you forget the edges of the
Marigolds run out into coastal
Tide. We all share birthdays here,
And the flowers are allowed to
Get a little
Stamped down in the parade
Of fireworkers brewmasters
Salesfolk and farmhands on the way to
The harvest –
At the top of the hill
Light gathers, then shatters
In such a stellar array
You might forget it’s the end of
By Sanghyun Park, South Korea
“Ahh. I never get sick of this,” said my father, as he slowly immersed himself in the hot water. I could see all the stress in his face gradually melt away, leaving only pure relaxation and a glowing smile, just like every other man in the public jacuzzi.
In the meantime, I was still struggling to put both my legs in the water. The immense heat stung my feet like a hundred bees. I winced as my lower body finally submerged. My father and the men around me were laughing inoffensively at my journey into the water.
“Son,” my father said while laughing with everyone else, “I know that you haven’t been in Korea for a while, but how did you become that sensitive? We used to come here everyday when you were a kid!”
In seconds, everyone was back in their meditative state within the water, as if that was the obvious thing to do. I sat next to my father and rested my back against the smooth stone wall. I said, “I know. That’s so annoying. I used to love coming here, but now it hurts to even go inside the jacuzzi. When I first arrived in the U.S., I thought I was a representative of my country. Now, I feel like the States changed me. Maybe I’m not really Korean anymore.”
My father faced me and gave me a smile warmer than a fresh cup of tea.
“Look, son. You can change your weight, your looks, or even your thoughts. But you can’t change who you are at your core. So, don’t ever worry about not being Korean. I mean, look at yourself.”
I didn’t notice that the water was already all the way up to my chin.
“You’re Korean. You’re going to be Americanized or something like that, okay?”
“Thanks dad,” I said, enjoying the warmth seep inside my body.