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Learning the 'rules' of playwriting


Getting into the University of Iowa to study playwriting
WD Snodgrass Poet
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I knew that I… I loved the theatre and I had been in plays from time to time and… and also had helped rewrite a… a musical at one point and… so I thought, okay, I… I will… I'd like to write plays. So, this is the time when the University of Iowa was just becoming the place where writers went and I had seen a big coverage of this and of Paul Engle — the man who ran it — in Life magazine I think. I had wanted… I thought that's what I'll do, I'll go there and I'll study playwriting. You couldn't get in; everybody was trying to get in. Fortunately or unfortunately — no fortunately, very fortunately — my mother was friends with a lady on the board of… of directors; they had grown up together and she… and, again, my interest in the arts may have reflected a kind of warfare between my mother and father. She could get me in, and did. Well I went… so I was registered mainly for the theatre. I… I wasn't acting though; I… I was just studying playwriting and I had an absolutely dreadful teacher. She had been… she had kept Tennessee Williams alive while he was there, we thought there was a love affair between them, we didn't know he was gay.

American poet WD Snodgrass, entered the world of poetry with a bang winning several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, for his first collection of poetry, Heart's Needle. A backlash followed his controversial fifth anthology “The Fuehrer Bunker”, but in recent years these poems have been reassessed and their importance recognised.

Listeners: William B. Patrick

William B. Patrick is a writer and poet who lives in Troy, New York. Among his work are the poetry volumes "We Didn't Come Here for This" and "These Upraised Hands", the novel "Roxa: Voices of the Culver Family" and the plays "Rescue" and "Rachel's Dinner". His most recent work is the non-fiction book "Saving Troy", based on the year he spent following the Troy Fire Department.

Mr. Patrick has been Writer-in-Residence at the New York State Writers Institute and has taught at Old Dominion University, Onondaga Community College, and Salem State College, and workshops in Screenwriting and Playwriting at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference in Roanoke, Virginia. He has received grants from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

Tags: University of Iowa, Life magazine, Paul Engle, Tennessee Williams

Duration: 1 minute, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008