From acclaimed poets and playwrights, to accomplished novelists and journalists, Iowa has been both host and home to literary genius. The Literary Walk, conceptualized by the Iowa City Public Art Advisory Committee in 1999, celebrates works by 49 writers who have ties to Iowa. The Literary Walk is comprised of a series of bronze relief panels that feature authors’ words as well as attribution. The panels are visually connected by a series of general quotations about books and writing stamped into the concrete sidewalk. All artwork, by Gregg LeFevre, is set in the pavement along both sides of Iowa Avenue from Clinton Street to Gilbert Street. It was installed in conjunction with the Iowa Avenue Streetscape Improvement Project, which took place from 2000 to 2001.
Take a stroll along the Literary Walk, and you’ll discover the outstanding array of material represented: there are passages from children’s books, quotes from memoirs, and dialogue from plays and short stories. In some instances, you’ll notice Iowa’s direct influence on the writers’ work; Herbert Quick, Bess Streeter Aldrich, and W.P. Kinsella are among several to make reference to Iowa in their featured passages.
The author section includes Literary Walk quotes as well as brief biographical information for each writer. Each entry reveals the writer’s connection to Iowa. Josephine Herbst, William Shirer and Amy Clampitt were born in the state while others, such as Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor and Rita Dove were involved with the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the internationally acclaimed creative writing program.
As you walk along, make sure you pause to read the writers’ words, and as you do, imagine their presence where you stand. Many of them once took the exact steps you take, on Iowa land in a city where academia meets Midwestern community.
Literary Walk booklets are available for a nominal fee at Prairie Lights Bookstore or Iowa Book & Supply.