Example poetry

Cornell College student represents Iowa City in world poetry slam


Exactly 13 seconds after the second poem Henry Morray chose to perform at a recent party, the 22-year-old caught his audience’s attention with a clever line.

“Love is not a 4 letter word. It’s all alphabet soup, you go from A to Z. You go from everything on your own,” Morray had begun, building to:

“until there are absolutely zero a’s, b’s, c’s, d’s, e’s and above all f’s left to give.”

To that, there was an audible “aah” in response.

And it was just one of many moments the crowd let their voices be heard as they narrated Morray’s poem, “4 you and 4 me (love is not a 4 letter word )”.

Morray was one of 16 poets to perform at Public Space One in mid-October for the chance to represent Iowa City in a global poetry slam competition called SlamoVision.

For an hour and a half, the group of hopeful poets took the microphone. Morray was ultimately declared the winner.

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On Saturday, an Iowa City judging event that’s part of SlamoVision will invite the public to view videos of other competing poets like Morray at the second annual Mic Check Poetry Fest.

What is SlamoVision?

SlamoVision is a project of the UNESCO international cities of literature, according to the UNESCO City of Literature of Iowa City. Each poet representing a participating city of literature will participate in an international competition judged by fans from other cities.

Videos are submitted so that people from participating cities around the world can come together and rank the competing poets.

Bucheon Poets, South Korea; Edinburgh, Scotland; Melbourne, Australia; and others are participating in this year’s contest.

The Iowa City judging event will take place Saturday at 8 p.m. at MERGE, 136 S. Dubuque St., and will be free and open to the public.

In December, the SlamoVision champion will be declared.

What is slam poetry?

Poetry slam combines elements of poetry, drama, storytelling and performance in a competitive eventaccording to the Poetry Foundation.

Who is representing Iowa City in the SlamoVision contest?

Samm Yu, left, and Henry Morray at Public Space One on October 15.  Morray competed against 15 other poets to represent Iowa City in the global poetry slam contest SlamoVision.

Born in Maryland, Morray has lived in Iowa most of his life.

He is a student at Cornell College in Mount Vernon and is majoring in product development and marketing, a change he made after pursuing an engineering degree.

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His interest in poetry developed while in college, but as a child he said those close to him recognized his talent for writing.

Morray thought he would be a novelist as a child.

In seventh grade, he wrote a poem about Shakespeare — about anything he could write about, he laughed — which was entered into a poetry contest for his grade level.

During his freshman year at Cornell, Morray was introduced to a spoken word and poetry club called Lyrically Inclined, in which he and two other students would later take on leadership roles.

At a club meeting, Morray heard the works of two new students.

It was a particularly transformative experience for Morray, in part because he realized that their work incorporated no rhyme, something he felt he always had to do in poetry.

“What I realized was that I was limiting myself in my creativity because in order to express myself I had to keep rhyming or something like that,” he said. “And then when I heard how and how good the visuals were and how much they painted for me and the emotions, I was like, ‘Wow, I want to be like this. “”

Inspired, Morray went on to create what he considers his first real body of work, and one of the poems he performed at Public Space One, “4 You and 4 Me (Love is Not a 4 Letter Word)”.

The poem is inspired by a friend of Morray’s who was going through a particularly difficult time and how much it hurt him to see this.

In three days, he completed the poem, energized by the pressure of knowing he was to perform the piece at Rock the Block at Cornell.

Morray often writes his plays to tight deadlines before upcoming performances, but his work is not finished when he performs.

“I always come back and keep seeing where I can improve things,” Morray said. “While the first draft may be good, it’s almost never a first draft. I keep going back to it. It’s recursive. … I have to get rid of the idea of ​​perfection because that was a big blockage for me, being a perfectionist. I had to be like, ‘Just start writing.’

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Morray’s experience at Public Space One broadened his awareness of what poetry is and can be, he said.

In poetry, you can talk about any subject, he says.

Its form allows people to deliver different messages than a speech, for example, but still to “tell the truth”.

“You use different literary techniques…to ultimately paint a picture and create an emotional bridge with an audience,” Morray said.

What is the Mic Check Poetry Fest?

The nonprofit Iowa City Poetry presents the second annual Mic Check Poetry Fest Friday and Saturday.

The two-day celebration of spoken word poetry includes panel discussions, live performances and writing workshops.

The festivities kick off Friday at Prairie Lights with a discussion between Iowa Writers’ Workshop professor Tracie Morris and Iowa Writers’ Workshop student Steven Willis, who will showcase their work and discuss the world of slam poetry.

After this discussion, there will be a performance at the James Theater, where spoken word artists including Samm Yu, Lisa Roberts and many more will share their work while the Gerard Estella Band performs live music.

On Saturday, afternoon workshops exploring writer’s block, among others, for young and adult writers will be led by Patricia Smith and Ebony Stewart.

Smith is an award-winning poet, writer, educator and author of eight books of poetry. She is a four-time National Poetry Slam individual champion, according to the Poetry Foundation. Stewart is an award-winning poet, author and playwright. She is a World Poetry Slam Champion.

The duo will headline the Mic Chek Poetry Fest Showcase at the Englert Theater at 4:30 p.m. IC Speaks, an organization that supports the youth spoken poetry community in Iowa Citywill open the show at 4 p.m.

The Riverside Theater will host a late-night poetry slam beginning at 9 p.m. to complement the festival events.

Visit Iowa City Poetry website for a full calendar of events.

Watch the full performance of Henry Morray and other poets at Public Space One below.

Here are two excerpts from Morray’s poem “4 You and 4 Me (Love is Not a 4 Letter Word)”.

“Love is not a 4 letter word.

It’s all alphabet soup, you go from A to Z

until there is absolutely zero a, b, c, d, e, and above all f left to give!

You see, love is not a four letter word, that would be too easy.

Love is a complicated treasure hunt where Person X ticks all the right boxes…

I’m tired of getting burned

I’m tired of going from loving myself to hating myself and smelling the smell of burnt flesh.

But that’s the irony! That’s what’s so funny, it makes me want to cry.

You see hate is not a 4 letter word.

That’s when I keep cold shouldering and cocking my potential and my dreams

and life responds with nailing me right in my funny bone.

And in my other hand I hold the torch as the Iowa Hawkeyes on a winning streak held a football against Purdue – not quite living up to expectations.

But the black of the night disappears as the yellow flame of the torch illuminates the cold stone under my own bare feet and I look down and see the cracked concrete, and I am overcome with nostalgia…”

Paris Barraza covers entertainment, lifestyle and the arts at Iowa City Press-Citizen. Contact her at [email protected] or (319) 519-9731. Follow her on Twitter @ParisBarraza.

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