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Spreading poetry locally

BY TOMMY MORGAN JR. | APRIL 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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The City of Literature is getting visual, combining the written word with the painted picture.

The Poetry in Public program, now in its eighth year, is accepting submissions of visual art to accompany the poems in its annual displays. Submissions are due Friday.

Iowa City’s Public Art Program created the initiative as a means to increase its scope — including written art as well as three-dimensional installations.

Selected poetry from local writers is put on display throughout the city in kiosks, recreation centers, and on the sides of city buses.

“I also was noticing in publications that a lot of communities had something similar. I started thinking it’d be neat to incorporate writing into the Public Art Program,” said Marcia Bollinger, Iowa City Neighborhood Services coordinator. She also oversees Poetry in Public.

This is the second year that Poetry in Public is accepting submissions of visual art. Last year, the initiative did not receive many pieces of art, which Bollinger hopes will change this time around, though she said Monday that the office has yet to receive any submissions.

Alison McGoff, a teacher and participant in the program, recommended the art aspect to Bollinger.

“Without [art], I think the poetry seems sort of naked,” McGoff said. “I think if I’m walking down the street, I’m probably going to be more apt to veer off and look at something that’s art-related.”

While the Public Art Program has displayed largely three-dimensional works such as sculptures and the downtown Weatherdance Fountain in the past, with Poetry in Public, Bollinger said the group wants to “provide a 2D opportunity for paintings, people who draw, or even computer-generated artwork.”

While the Public Art Program accepts art submissions for Poetry in Public the same way it does writing, the artistic submissions are selected in a different way. While the poetry is independently created, the visual pieces must represent a specific poem selected as part of the program.

“We posted all the selected poetry online so that the artists who are interested in participating can read through and select the poetry they want to represent,” Bollinger said.

The art submissions are judged by the individual poets, who get to decide what piece will accompany their work.

“We didn’t want poets to be discouraged about participating in the program at the risk of having artwork next to [their poems] that they didn’t feel represented the poem,” Bollinger said.

The poetry submissions for Poetry in Public have been judged and posted online on the city’s website, and some are already on display on buses. Poetry in Public is also planning several events as part of the program, including readings and a display at Artsfest that will combine the poetry and visual art — but such a show can only happen if the program receives enough submissions.


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