High school writers connect across chasms with Page Poetry Contest

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IOWA CITY — With the 2020 murder of George Floyd, and the trial of the officer who killed him, a program I started as a high school writing program has become an escape, an outlet, and a way to deal for the young writers who are participating. Page Poetry Contest Winners from IC Speaks Over the past year, IC Speaks and our members have dealt with a pandemic, and an explosion of political conversation happening worldwide. In some cases, I had BIPOC students writing pieces about the anger and pain…

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Jay Wallerich: “I’m Empty Reality”

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“I’m Empty Reality” by Jay Wallerich My mind leaks empty reality; Onto these pages it spills Freely, Chaotically, Endlessly. Something profound festers inside but I have no words to work off of. The madness stays within. I feel need to explain the process in which my thoughts are growing from But my tongue is tangled in the weeds My teeth chipped from rocks, My lips dry from the dirt. Words become utterly useless. What is it called when one’s self is overfilling? Being held above oxygen level, looking down upon…

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Aidan Spurgetis: “Out of Sight”

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“Out of Sight” by Aidan Spurgetis He lost the staring contest because the stucco ceiling had too many eyes. He sat up stretched and yawned. It had been two days since his apocalypse and he brushed his teeth. The arm moved in the old pattern like an explosive jackhammer stinging the edge of his gums. It wasn’t self-punishment only habit. He didn’t know how long he brushed but he stopped when it felt right. He lost the staring contest with the mirror because he had water in his eye. and…

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Nancy Nahra: “The Roar of the Highway”

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The Roar of the Highway by Nancy Nahra The roar of the highway is the song I fight with every night. A hollow sound for the hollow road, Friendless rubber tires and fatigued metal boxes and Chills in fortissimo Amplify The beautiful sound haunting me from my balcony. Low, hazy bellows and hunger- ridden notes cushion and sing the suburbs to sleep. The roar of the highway Cools down the stars. Can you teach me how to have that power in my voice? How to make the desperation sweet when…

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Top 3 themes through March: intersectional women’s history, spoken word, and support

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Three timely themes define the newly-updated TRM Events Calendar: Women’s History with an intersectional eye, spoken word, and events focused on providing support — which are fast becoming more relevant as we gradually emerge from the COVID pandemic’s extreme isolation. WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH • Short films by four young female playwrights are the treat tonight at “Urban Exposure: Young Women in Film, courtesy of Figge Museum’s Urban Exposure Independent Film Project and Azubuike Arts. You can see “Coming Out Straight,” a short film by Paris Davis that depicts a world…

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From Willis & Rainey to MLK Youth Summits: A week filled with timely events

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Sandwiched between the historic attempted insurrection two weeks ago and the coming Presidential Inauguration, today may be one of the most significant Martin Luther King Jr. Days in decades. So it’s only fitting that events honoring the day extend all week and into next week, in many online forms, and also throughout Iowa and Illinois. On the new TRM Calendar (updated today), our top pick for the week is a free viewing of “I Am Not Your Negro.” Showing at anytime through Thursday, this film is a documentary on author…

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To step into your writer self, read your own story

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I constantly have conversations with people who commend me for being a writer and within the same breath, assure me that they could never be one. Here’s a story about one of those people. A student of mine, we’ll call her June, regularly attends the weekly IC Speaks workshops at her school, and it’s undeniable–nearly contagious–how excited she is about writing and performing.  One week, she brought a friend (or more accurately, dragged her friend) into the workshop by the wrist, amidst groans and protests.  When I asked our visitor…

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Slam poetry in Iowa born 19 years ago

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In the documentary, “Louder Than a Bomb,” a poet takes the stage and says “poets, breathe now.” Though I wasn’t a poet yet when I saw the film, I held my breath and then released it with him. In that electrifying and powerful moment, I breathed life into a poem for the first time. I felt the poetry begin to pulse through me.  That’s how Heather Knowles (aka Heather K, aka Slamama) remembers feeling when she saw “SlamNation,” shortly after founding the Des Moines Poetry Slam, Iowa’s first-ever poetry slam,…

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The marginalization of spoken word, slam poetry

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Them: “So, what do you do?” Me: “I’m a poet.” Them: “Me too! What kind?” Me: “Spoken word.” Them: “Oh, cool. Like rap and stuff? I write normal poetry.” There it is. The divide. It pops up constantly in conversations, the idea of “normal” poetry (or even worse, “traditional” poetry) that actively excludes spoken word poetry. It’s a common misconception that there’s a difference between spoken word poetry and page poetry — or at least not any difference beyond how the work is delivered to its intended audience. Literary critic…

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Award-winning Iowa City poet combines drive, talent, discipline to self-publish

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He works four jobs. He self-markets and books his own competitions, readings and performances — often working in the middle of the night or between shifts. And he wrote his book in about two months. Caleb Rainey, a University of Iowa graduate, is combining highly-crafted word-smithing, with self-coordinated time management that rivals the best professional systems, with old-fashioned hard work and sacrifice, with sheer drive to put his stage poems “to page.” The 24-year-old is in the midst of a national tour of competitions, performances, and readings to promote “Look,…

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