The University of Iowa

In the news: International Writing Program director reflects on worldwide career

May 8th, 2019

Christopher Merrill, the director of the International Writing Program, makes a phone call at his desk on April 12. Merrill’s career began with covering the 1990 Fifa World Cup in Italy, and he has visited more than 100 countries.

By Charlie Peckman, The Daily Iowan

With stacks of documents, books, volumes of poetry, and atlases, the organized chaos of Christopher Merrill’s office on the second floor of the Shambaugh House holds almost as many stories as the man who inhabits the small, oblong room. Merrill’s rimless, rectangular glasses, slightly askew hair, and plain black vest layered over a ruffled blue dress shirt fit the bill of an Indiana Jones-esque character.

Although Merrill, the director of the International Writing Program, said he does not keep track of how many countries he has visited, he admits the number is more than 100. But long before covering war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the 62-year-old said his childhood consisted of two contrasting dreams.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be two things — a poet and a soccer player,” he said.

The latter may not have sparked a professional career in the sport, but allowed the Massachusetts native to travel to Italy in 1990 to cover the FIFA World Cup — this adventure, however, was only the beginning of a globetrotting career. Since then, he has been appointed to President Obama’s National Council on the Arts and received a Chevalier from the French government (which is similar to an English knighthood.)