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

Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature hosted the fourth annual international SlamoVision contest as part of the Mic Check Poetry Fest. Iowa City judges ranked the different city champions at MERGE in the Ped Mall on Saturday Nov. 12.

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Vaishnavi Kolluru, Arts Reporter


Poets from around the world performed passionate and mellifluous poetry across genres and languages for around twenty Iowan judges on Nov. 12 in MERGE in the Ped Mall as part of SlamoVision.

The annual SlamoVision contest unites different UNESCO cities of literature and nine poets to share poetry. It originally began in 2019 as part of the Mic Check Poetry Fest and is put on by Iowa City Poetry.

John Kenyon, executive director at Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. He is UNESCO’s representative in the team that puts together the SlamoVision.

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

Author Caleb Rainey co-organized the event together 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 as well as tours the nation to perform his poetry. He was a finalist for the 2019 UNESCO City of Literature Global Poetry Slam in Iowa City.

“I’m producing Mic Check poetry Fest,” Rainey said. “We collaborated with UNESCO City of Literature for them to be part of our line-up of events.”

Rainey highlighted the importance of the event in both exhibiting and improving the poetic talent of Iowa City.

“[The Slam-O-Vision] is a chance for us to show the world what we’ve got, and then it’s also a chance for us to take in other styles and techniques that are in spoken word when we see other countries doing this in other cities that have different languages or different approaches or even different storytelling techniques,” Rainey said. “I love getting to interact with this artform across the world.”

Before the SlamoVision, each city independently selected a winner and filmed the winner performing their poem. These films were sent to all nine participating cities to be ranked. Each city ranked winners from the other eight cities.

Roughly twenty judges from Iowa City ranked the champions from the nine cities.

Kenyon said UNESCO attempts to make the event as inclusive as possible through a unique procedure for ranking the winners.

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

In addition, recordings of the poetic performances of the nine finalists have been posted on Slam-O-Vision’s website for anyone who did not have the chance to attend the event in-person.

The scores of the winners will be tabulated and tallied in upcoming weeks. A Grand SlamoVision Final will take place on Dec. 6 in Nottingham, U.K., 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 the President of his campus’ Spoken Word Poetry Club, Lyrically Inclined.

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

“We held a separate poetry slam in October, around the time of the Book Festival, and Henry was the winner of that,” Kenyon said. “So, we submitted Henry to the competition.”

This is the first time Morray has ever participated in a slam poetry competition. For him, the experience was exciting and educational.

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“I was just floored by the amount of talent,” Morray said. “I had never been to a slam poetry competition before, and I got so much experience just being around the different styles and energies there.”

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

“I would encourage people to definitely go do things that are different, attend a slam poetry event or an open mic,” Morray said. “There’s not one way to do poetry. Poetry doesn’t rhyme. It doesn’t not have to rhyme. It doesn’t have to follow a certain path. Each person has a different flavor. So, definitely link up into those different kinds of communities.”

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