Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature hosted the fourth annual SlamoVision international competition as part of the Mic Check Poetry Fest. Iowa City judges ranked the various city champions at the MERGE at Ped Mall on Saturday, November 12.
Poets from around the world performed impassioned and melodious poetry across genres and languages in front of approximately twenty Iowan judges on November 12 at MERGE in Ped Mall as part of SlamoVision.
The annual SlamoVision competition brings together various UNESCO cities of literature and nine poets to share poetry. It originally started in 2019 as part of the Mic Check Poetry Fest and is hosted by Iowa City Poetry.
John Kenyon, Executive Director of UNESCO’s City of Literature, Iowa City. He is the UNESCO representative on the team putting together the SlamoVision.
“We are the third literary city among the 42 literary cities in the world,” said Kenyon. “We are participating in the poetry festival this year together with 9 other literary cities.”
Author Caleb Rainey co-organized 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 tours across the nation performing his poetry. He was a finalist for the 2019 UNESCO City of Literature Global Poetry Slam in Iowa City.
“I produce the Mic Check Poetry Fest,” Rainey said. “We have worked with the UNESCO City of Literature to include them in our program of events.”
Rainey emphasized the importance of the event both for the exhibition and for enhancing 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 absorb other styles and techniques of the spoken word when we see other countries doing it in other cities that speak other languages have, 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 all nine participating cities to create a ranking. Each city ranked winners from the other eight cities.
About twenty Iowa City judges evaluated the champions from the nine cities.
Kenyon said UNESCO is trying to make the event as inclusive as possible through a unique process for ranking winners.
“We just launched 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.”
In addition, recordings of the nine finalists’ poetry performances were posted on the Slam-O-Vision website for those unable to attend the event in person.
Winners’ scores will be tabulated and tallied over the coming weeks. A Grand SlamoVision final will be held on December 6th 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 serves as President of the Spoken Word Poetry Club Lyrically Inclined on his campus.
Kenyon describes the rigorous selection process through which Morray was selected.
“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 competition.”
This is the first time Morray has ever entered a slam poetry competition. For him, the experience was exciting and educational.
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“I was just blown away by the amount of talent,” Morray said. “I’ve never been to a slam poetry competition before and I’ve had so much experience exploring the different styles and energies there.”
This event helped Morray learn how individualistic a practice of poetry is and encouraged him to be experimental.
“I would encourage people to definitely do things that are different, attend a slam poetry event or an open mic,” Morray said. “There is no one way to write poetry. Poems don’t rhyme. It doesn’t have to rhyme. It doesn’t have to go in any particular way. Every person has a different taste. So by all means, connect with these different types of communities.”