The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Caleb Rainey to represent Iowa City in global poetry slam competition

At the Oct. 2 SlamoVision competition, several poets from across Iowa created an electrifying and upbeat night with their work.
Ava Neumaier
Caleb Rainey, who goes by “The Negro Artist,” performs a poem during a Slam-O-Vision event at Public Space One in Iowa City on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023. The Slam-O-Vision event is a global poetry slam taking place in worldwide UNESCO Cities of Literature. Rainey will go on to the international competition after winning first place in the event.

On Monday, Oct. 2, Iowa City became host to ten poets from across the state who traveled to compete in the annual SlamoVision poetry competition, which has been held for the past five years.

SlamoVision is an international competition that will see 12 participating UNESCO Cities of Literature,  each tasked with choosing one slam poet to represent them.

Iowa City is the only city in the United States to participate in this competition, meaning that the work of local poets will be representative of the country at the Mic Check Poetry Fest from Nov. 3-4.

This local event, co-hosted by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature and Iowa City Poetry, acted as the qualifying competition to choose a slam poet to represent Iowa City.

“We have a really strong slam community and Iowa is a small enough state that we allow people to come from across the state to participate. It gives everyone a chance,” said John Kenyon, the executive director of Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature.

About five years ago, one of Kenyon’s colleagues in Melbourne came up with the idea of SlamoVision after seeing Eurovision. Since then, the local poetry slam has been a fun and encouraging environment for aspiring spoken word poets.

This year, the slam was hosted at Public Space One’s Close House and featured a wide variety of talented poets.

For this slam competition, audience reactions influenced the judges; throughout the competition, the audience did not act as mere “crickets,” but instead engaged with what the poets were saying through snaps and claps, acting almost as a clap-o-meter on which the judges based their rulings and creating an upbeat atmosphere for the slam.

Additionally, the poets were supportive and kind to one another, often shouting out encouraging words or phrases before their co-competitors took the stage.

After each of the three rounds, the poets with the lowest total scores were eliminated.

Mori Venus was one of four judges chosen on the night of the competition. The judges were chosen randomly from members of the audience who were there independently in order to watch the competition. Each judge was first asked if they knew any of the poets and, if they didn’t, was instructed to remain unbiased when rating each poem.

“I was randomly asked to be a judge, and it’s pretty difficult. Some of my decisions have been based purely on the words they chose – not on the subject matter of the poems,” Venus said.

Each poet was allotted three and half minutes to perform their piece, which could be about anything, from heartfelt and deeply personal stories to happy, lighthearted verses — or both.

Caleb Rainey, who refers to himself online as “The Negro Artist,” was crowned the 2023 Iowa City representative for the local SlamoVision competition after delivering three unique poems at the slam. The video of his third poem will be sent to the international competition for judging.

“My poems are mostly inspired by life experiences and hard conversations I’ve had,” Rainey said. “Even tonight, I started two poems after listening to the other poets.”

A graduate of the University of Iowa, Rainey holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing. In addition, he is a successful author, performer and producer who has participated in many national and international poetry performances.

The next level of SlamoVision is the international competition in which each participating City of Literature has the opportunity to judge the other 11 representative poets.

Iowa City’s watch event for the Mic Check Poetry Fest will be held Nov. 4 and located on 136 Dubuque Street at the downtown Ped Mall; audience members will get to view and judge the videos of the eleven other participating poets. The international winner will be crowned at an online event on Dec. 5.

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About the Contributors
Riley Dunn
Riley Dunn, Arts Reporter
Riley Dunn is a first-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to her time at the DI, Riley interned for Swimming World Magazine.
Ava Neumaier
Ava Neumaier, Photojournalist
Ava Neumaier is a first-year student at the University of Iowa, majoring in English & Creative Writing. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook in New York, and has interned for a New York Times photographer. She enjoys taking pictures of performances and student life.