Former Director of Iowa Writers' Workshop Dies

The New York Times this morning ran an Obit on Jack Leggett, long time director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In the obituary, it quotes Leggett saying that when he took over the program in 1970 there were a lot of kids out of the army and the Peace Corps enrolling. “They were an undisciplined lot,” he told the Times in a 1979. “They’d say: ‘Don’t tell me about form.'”20150130leggett-obit-superjumbo

Among the RPCVs that I know of who attended the Iowa program (and I know there are many more) are Phil Damon (Ethiopia 1963-65); Kent Haruf (Turkey 1965-67); Richard Wiley (Korea 1967-69);Chuck Lustig (Colombia 1967-68); Bob Shacochis.

In the TIMES article, Bob Shacochis is quoted, “If it can be said that any one person was responsible for Iowa City being celebrated as the center of gravity for the workshop culture in the literary life of America, that person was Jack Leggett.”

Shacochis, who won a National Book Award in 1985 for his collection of stories Easy in the Islands written at the Iowa Workshop, and whose novel The Woman Who Lost Her Soul was a Pulitzer Prize finalist last year, went onto say, “I could never have been a writer without his support.”

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  • Jack Leggett was my teacher and, later, my friend. I attended the Workshop from 1970-72, after I was in the Peace Corps (Colombia, 67-68). Jack was director of the workshop when I arrived and long after I left. There was a big 75th reunion of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in June 2011 (I believe that was the year) and I was told then that Jack was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s in the Iowa City area and that he wasn’t seeing anyone. I was hoping I would get to talk to him, but that was not to be.

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