SlamoVision brings the work of poets from around the world to Iowa City as part of the Mic Check Poetry Fest


Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature hosted the fourth annual SlamoVision International Competition as part of the Mic Check Poetry Fest. The Iowa City judges ranked the various city champions at MERGE at the Ped Mall on Saturday, November 12.

Poets from around the world performed passionate and melodious poetry across genres and languages ​​for some 20 Iowan judges on November 12 at MERGE in the Ped Mall as part of SlamoVision.

The annual SlamoVision competition brings together different UNESCO Cities of Literature and nine poets to share poetry. It started in 2019 as part of the Mic Check Poetry Fest and is organized by Iowa City Poetry.

John Kenyon, Executive Director of Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. He is the UNESCO representative in the team that mounts the SlamoVision.

“We are the third city of literature among the 42 cities of literature in the world,” Kenyon said. “We are participating this year in the Poetry Festival with 9 other cities of literature.”

Author Caleb Rainey co-hosted the event with Kenyon.

Rainey graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing. He is a professional poet who writes books and travels the country performing his poetry. He was a finalist in the 2019 Global Poetry Slam for the UNESCO City of Literature in Iowa City.

“I produce Mic Check Poetry Fest,” Rainey said. “We have collaborated with the UNESCO City of Literature to include them in our program of events.”

Rainey emphasized the importance of the event to both exhibit and enhance Iowa City’s poetic talent.

“[The Slam-O-Vision] is a chance for us to show the world what we have, and then it’s also a chance for us to incorporate other styles and techniques that are spoken when we see other countries doing this in other cities who have different languages ​​or different approaches or even different storytelling techniques,” Rainey said. “I love interacting with this art form around the world.”

Prior to SlamoVision, each city independently selected a winner and filmed the winner performing their poem. These films were sent to the nine participating cities for classification. Each city ranked the winners among the other eight cities.

About 20 Iowa City judges ranked the nine-city champions.

Kenyon said UNESCO is trying to make the event as inclusive as possible through a unique winner ranking procedure.

“We just did an open call and said it was a public event,” Kenyon said. “So anyone who wanted to come could come to this event and rank the winners.”

Additionally, recordings of the nine finalists’ poetic performances have been posted on the Slam-O-Vision website for anyone who didn’t have the chance to attend the event in person.

The winners’ scores will be compiled and tallied in the coming weeks. A Grand SlamoVision final will take place on December 6 in Nottingham, UK, which is also a UNESCO City of Literature.

Henry Morray is this year’s champion from Iowa City. He is a senior at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, majoring in product development and marketing. He works as president of his campus’ Spoken Word Poetry Club, Lyrically Inclined.

Kenyon describes the rigorous selection process by which Morray was chosen.

“We held a separate poetry slam in October, around the time of the book festival, and Henry was the winner,” Kenyon said. “So, we submitted Henry to the contest.”

This is Morray’s first time participating in a slam poetry contest. For him, the experience was exciting and educational.

RELATED: Mic Check Poetry Fest will host three days of spoken word poetry

“I was just floored by the amount of talent,” Morray said. “I had never entered a slam poetry contest before, and I gained so much experience from being around the different styles and energies there.”

This event helped Morray learn how individualistic a poetic practice is and encouraged him to be experimental.

“I would encourage people to do different things, go to a slam poetry event or go open mic,” Morray said. “There is no one way to write poetry. Poetry does not rhyme. It doesn’t have to rhyme. He doesn’t have to follow a certain path. Each person has a different flavor. So, definitely connect with these different types of communities.

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