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The University of Iowa Libraries

Guide to the Paul Engle Papers

Collection Overview

Date Span: 1929-1988
Creator: Engle, Paul (1908-1991)
Extent: 72.00 linear feet.
Collection Number: MSC0514
Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Summary: Poet (numerous books from Worn Earth, 1932), editor of the O. Henry Prize Stories, 1954-1959, director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, 1941-1967, and co-founder and director of the International Writers' Program, 1967-1976 at the University of Iowa. Literary manuscripts, correspondence, subject files, and student works documenting his career as a writer and teacher.

Alternate Extent Statement: Photographs in Boxes 1-4, 21, 30; Microfilm in Box 27; Audio Material in Boxes 11, 24, 26, 29, 30, and 41.

Access: This collection is open for research. Hua-Ling Engle retains copyright.

Use: Hua-Ling Engle retains copyright.

Acquisition: This collection was transferred to the University of Iowa Libraries at the time of Mr. Engle's death in 1991.

Preferred Citation: Paul Engle Papers, The University of Iowa Libraries, Iowa City, Iowa.

Repository: University of Iowa Special Collections
Address: Special Collections Department
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City, IA 52242
Phone: 319-335-5921
Curator: Greg Prickman

Paul Engle was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on October 12, 1908, to parents (Hamilton) Thomas Allen and Evelyn (Reinheimer) Engle. As a child, he received his formal education within the Cedar Rapids public schools and claimed to have received many informal lessons while helping out in the family's horse business. Engle attended Coe College in Cedar Rapids, where he graduated cum laude in 1931, emphasizing English literature, American history and languages. In 1932, Paul Engle received his M.A. from the University of Iowa, marking one of the first times in the U.S. an advanced degree was awarded for presenting a piece of imaginative writing as a thesis. The work, Worn Earth, was subsequently published by the Yale University Press. That same year, Engle was awarded a fellowship to begin doctoral work at Columbia University.

In the fall of 1933, Paul Engle received the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. He sailed for England, enrolled in Merton College at Oxford University, and began studies under the poet Edmund Blunden. He was awarded a second M.A. degree in 1936, and in July of that year married Mary Nomine Nissen, a former neighbor in Cedar Rapids.

After his return to the states in 1937, Engle joined the faculty at the University of Iowa, lecturing primarily on poetry. In 1942, he became professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program. It is, perhaps, quite relevant to note here that Paul Engle, despite many quotes to the contrary, was not the founder of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. While it is true that Engle had much to do with shaping the Workshop into a prestigious and well-known program, credit for the idea and its inception must go to Wilbur Schramm. Engle was appointed acting director in 1941, during Schramm's wartime service. Paul Engle went on to direct the program for twenty-four more years.

In 1967, Engle and his future second wife, Chinese poet Hua-ling Nieh Engle, co-founded the International Writing Program (IWP) at the University of Iowa. The couple's work with foreign writers and their families led them to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 1976. Paul retired from his position as director of the IWP in July of 1977. Hua-ling took over the position, while her husband advised her occasionally. In his retirement from the university, Engle was able to dedicate more time to his writing.

Although Paul Engle dedicated a tremendous portion of his professional life to directing writing programs at the University of Iowa, he still managed to find time to raise two daughters from his first marriage, Mary and Sara, as well as two step-daughters, Lan-Lan and Wei-Wei. As well, throughout his university career, Engle never stopped writing. Over the course of his life, Paul Engle published more than a dozen books of poetry, a novel, a children's book and a full-length libretto. His poems and critical essays have appeared in countless professional and popular publications, including Readers' Digest, Ladies Home Journal, Life Magazine, and Better Homes and Gardens. Engle also found the time to edit numerous anthologies of short fiction and poetry and to travel extensively, lecturing on topics regarding his own work, the writing programs at the university and life in the state of Iowa.

While it is relatively easy to see that Engle was a prolific writer and a successful administrator, it is, perhaps, more difficult to assess the impact Paul Engle made upon the literary world. His teaching, his poetry and prose, and his leadership have influenced and inspired countless readers and writers, university writing programs, publishing houses, and scholars at all age and ability levels.

Paul Engle died in March of 1991 at the age of 82.

The papers of Paul Engle consist of 70.5 linear feet of records dating from approximately 1929 to 1988 and were transferred to the Special Collections Department at the time of his death in 1991. They document Engle's literary accomplishments, as well as his personal, professional and community interests. The papers are divided into six series: Personal Material, Professional Papers, Correspondence, Writings, Workshops, and Student Works.

The series of Personal Material dates from [1920 to 1980] and is arranged alphabetically. Here can be found Engle family correspondence, financial records, Paul Engle's transcripts and diplomas, newspaper and magazine clippings concerning Paul Engle, items once belonging to his first wife (Mary) and his two daughters (Mary and Sara) and family photographs.

The Professional Papers series, also arranged alphabetically, is made up of two subseries: A. General Information and B. University of Iowa Information. Within the General subseries are documents pertaining to Paul Engle's professional work that was not associated with the University of Iowa. Subseries B includes information about the University of Iowa's department of English, photographs of Paul, and newspaper clippings regarding Engle and his work at the University of Iowa. The inclusive dates for this series are 1934-1987.

The third series is composed of Correspondence, and is arranged chronologically. Here can be found letters written by Paul Engle and dating from 1929-1986. The bulk of series three, however, is a collection of letters written to Engle. These papers date from 1928 to 1987 and include letters from numerous notable individuals (especially American writers), students of the workshops, politicians, publishers and editors, and close family friends. An index to the Correspondence series can be found at the end of this manuscript register.

Series four, Writings, is arranged alphabetically and is divided into four subseries: A. Appearances and Lectures, B. Poetry, C. Prose, and D. Works Edited by Engle. The papers and audio-visual materials within this series date from approximately 1930 to 1978, documenting Engle's literary career with holograph and typescript drafts, research, and correspondence.

Subseries A, Appearances and Lectures, includes interview transcripts and lecture notes, as well as posters, brochures and pamphlets publicizing Paul Engle's appearances.

Subseries B, Poetry, is composed of two groupings of documents: General Poetry and Published Poetry. The papers include holograph and typescript drafts of poetry written by Engle as well as holograph and typescript manuscripts, galleys, reprint copies and related correspondence for much of Paul Engle's published poetry.

Subseries C, Prose, is arranged the same way as the Poetry subseries. It too is composed of various drafts, reprints, galleys, research and correspondence related to Paul Engle's works of prose, both published and unpublished.

Subseries D, Works Editied by Engle, contains information documenting serveral projects Engle edited alone or with a team.

Series five, Workshops, is arranged alphabetically and is also divided into four subseries: A. The International Writing Program (IWP), B. The Poetry Workshop, C. The Translation Workshop and D. The Iowa Writers' Workshop. This series documents much of the activity surrounding these four workshops and includes the perspectives of not only Paul Engle but of the students, professors, and administrators involved with the programs. Documents and audiovisual material in this series date from 1941 to 1988.

Subseries A, The International Writing Program (IWP) is composed of administrative information, a number of foreign language anthologies, student manuscripts, correspondence, publicity and newspaper clippings regarding the activities of the IWP.

Subseries B, The Poetry Workshop, contains papers documenting activities within this workshop, including administrative papers, correspondence and student manuscripts.

Subseries C, The Translation Workshop, is composed of papers relating to the creation of this program, as well as its transition into the IWP. Here can be found administrative information and student translations.

Subseries D, The Iowa Writers' Workshop, presents information regarding the students, professors, and administrators of this program. Documents include fundraising and financial statements, news and publicity, and student applications to the workshop.

The last series, Student Works, contains manuscripts (including holograph, typescript and carbon drafts, as well as galleys and theses) written by members of the University of Iowa's four writers' workshops. Documents within this series date from 1944 to 1983 and are arranged alphabetically by the author's last name.
Paul Engle poetry reading, December 15, 1969 [sound recording]. Main Media Services Audio record 234 CAS

Paul Engle reading his own poems sound recording. Main Media Services Record 30

Iowa poets [audiorecordings]. Curriculum Lab Non-Print 811 /I64

Paul Engle, and later Hualing Engle, settled portions of his papers on his alma mater, Coe College (Cedar Rapids). A finding aid for this collection, which overlaps the present one, is at:

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