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International happy hour, literately

Four writers will present their work at an International Happy Hour Salon. Clockwise, from top left: Dmitry Golynko (Russia), Amanda Lee Koe (Singapore), Dénes Krusovszky (Hungary), Sridala Swami (India)

Four writers will present their work at an International Happy Hour Salon. Clockwise, from top left: Dmitry Golynko (Russia), Amanda Lee Koe (Singapore), Dénes Krusovszky (Hungary), Sridala Swami (India)

Room 220 will hold the first installment of its fall 2013 series of Happy Hour Salons with a delegation of esteemed authors and poets from around the world, courtesy of the University of Iowa International Writing Program. The salon takes place from 6 – 9 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, at the Press Street HQ (3718 St. Claude Ave.). As always, complimentary libations will be on hand and the event is free and open to the public.

More than 1,400 writers from more than 140 countries have attended the University of Iowa’s International Writers Program since its inception in 1967, making it one of the strongest centers for international literary exchange in the United States. Although Nobel prize secretary Horace Engdahl certainly overstepped his bounds when, in 2008, he said that “the U.S. is too isolated, too insular — they don’t translate enough and don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature,” his comments were not entirely without merit. Only about 3 percent of all books published in the United States are works in translation – compared, for example, to an average of 30–60 percent in European countries.

Think of the past 10 books you’ve read. How many were originally published in English, and how might that shape your worldview? Conversely, how might your worldview be different if you read more writers in translation?

Whether you’re one of the many literate Americans cloistered by your reading habits within your native tongue or an absolute nut for cosmopolitan poetry and fiction, this event — the third of such annual collaborations between Room 220 and IWP — should please. The event will feature four poets and fiction writers acclaimed in their own countries and beyond, and likely unknown to American literati only because of the insularity that non-translation breeds (they’ll all be reading in English). In all, 14 writers from IWP will be on hand and happy to drink and/or swap opinions on books and life.

The Readers:

Dmitry Golynko’s poetry has appeared in just a few—but always impressive—places in English, such as Graywolf Press’ anthology New European Poets. His book As It Turns Out was published in English by Brooklyn-based Ugly Duckling Presse. He is the author of four other books of poems, published in his native Russia, where he is a researcher at the Russian Institute of Art History, faculty at the St. Petersburg University of Cinema and TV, and a contributing editor atMoscow Art Magazine. He’ll tell you how to whip it out with a child paraplegic and a Chechen terrorist.

Amanda Lee Koe is the fiction editor for Esquire in Singapore and several other publications. She co-edited an anthology of revisited Asian folktales titled Eastern Heathens, co-directed a documentary about older people’s sexuality titled Post-Love, and is co-founder and communications director for the curatorial operation studioKALEIDO. Her first book, Ministry of Moral Panic, will appear later this year.

Sridala Swami is a fiction writer, poet, photographer, film editor, teacher, radio producer … you name it. She’s been published all over the world, particularly in her native India, and is the author of the poetry collection A Reluctant Survivor. She is at work on what seems like an innumerable number and variety of projects, including a collection of interviews with contemporary Indian poets. She blogs, occasionally, at The Spaniard in the Works.

Dénes Krusovszky is an accomplished poet and translator—the English-language poets he’s rendered into his native Hungarian include John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and Simon Armitage—as well as editor of the literary quarterly Ex Symposion and of the JAK World Literature Series, which features contemporary foreign fiction and poetry in Hungarian. He has published three volumes of poetry, the last of which won the József Attila Prize, which is apparently a very big deal.


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