Iowa City West High School Student Selected to Serve as Ambassador for Outstanding Poetry

On Friday, April 30, Iowa City West High junior Shreya Khullar will be inaugurated in Des Moines as Iowa’s first Student Poet Ambassador.

“The Iowa Student Poet Ambassador is an exciting new program that recognizes an outstanding, young writer and celebrates poetry and the literary arts in Iowa,” said Jan Warren, Assistant Director for Student Services at the Belin-Blank Center and Coordinator of the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, Iowa and Midwest Region-at-Large.

The Ambassador was selected from a pool of over 300 creative writing entries, including more than 100 pieces of poetry, from students across the state. Ms. Khullar earned multiple gold medals in this year’s Scholastic competition. A selection committee made up of individuals from the partner organization selected Ms. Khullar based on her poetry and ability to serve in an ambassadorial role. The Iowa Student Poet Ambassador program is a collaboration of the following partner organizations:

  • Belin-Blank Center and the Scholastic Art & Writing Award
  • Iowa Arts Council
  • Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature
  • Iowa Library Association
  • Iowa Poet Laureate Program
  • Iowa Poetry Association
  • State Library of Iowa/Iowa Center for the Book
  • University of Iowa Arts Share

Ms. Khullar will be inaugurated in the rotunda of the State Capitol at 2:00 p.m. on Friday, April 30th, the last day of National Poetry Month. Representatives from partner organizations will be in attendance and poetry will be read by Iowa Poet Laureate Debra Marquart and the inaugural Iowa Student Poet Ambassador, Shreya Khullar.

Cities of Literature celebrate World Poetry Day on March 21

The UNESCO Cities of Literature are celebrating World Poetry Day, designated by UNESCO as March 21, with a number of different project, programs and events.

Granada UNESCO City of Literature in Spain leads the Cities of Literature World Poetry Day initiative each year, and the theme in 2021 is “Reconnecting People.” Twenty-three Cities of Literature are participating in World Poetry Day 2021: Bucheon, Dunedin, Edinburgh, Granada, Heidelberg, Iowa City, Kraków, Kuhmo, Ljubljana, Lviv, Manchester, Milan, Nanjing, Nottingham, Óbidos, Odessa, Québec City, Reykjavik, Seattle, Tartu, Ulyanovsk, Utrecht and Wonju. Their activities will honor poets and celebrate one of humanity’s most treasured forms of cultural and linguistic expression

Because of the continued need to social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic, Iowa City’s celebration is virtual. A Spotify playlist featuring 13 poets with ties to Iowa City and/or the University of Iowa has been compiled, allowing listeners to hear vital work from poets like Rita Dove, Philip Levine, W.D. Snodgrass, Joy Harjo and others. The playlist can be accessed here.

Other cities and their projects include:

Bucheon, South Korea
In Poetry Therapy Week poems by seven poets, curated by the Civic Poet on the theme of ‘Reconnecting People’, will be introduced online each day for a week.

Dunedin, New Zealand
Primary school children, aged 6 to 8 years, will participate in free poetry workshops in their class-rooms throughout the week. The program, City of Literature Primary Possibilities, will be run with award-winning poet Liz Breslin. Together the children will create an original poem as a group, bringing young voices to the City of Literature’s Possibilities Project. Posters will be designed and printed afterwards featuring each of the poems for the schools to exhibit.

Edinburgh, Scotland
The Poetry Path will highlight poems from throughout Edinburgh’s literary history, and celebrate the links between them. Each poem featured in the social media campaign will link to the one be-fore, either through its theme, or with interesting trivia about the poet. Throughout the day a digital poetry path will be built which links some of the city’s oldest poetry with contemporary work, and takes the reader on an online walk of words. Also, in a discussion hosted by the National Library of Scotland, Serena Field will have a relaxed conversation with Alexander McCall Smith about his new poetry collection, In a Time of Distance.

Heidelberg, Germany
In ‘Bei Anruf: Poesie’: Poetry by dial, 17 poets from Heidelberg will call lovers of poetry by telephone across the city and the region and will read their own poems aloud. Poets and listeners will be matched by the cultural departments.

Kraków, Poland
World Poetry Day will be marked in Kraków with various initiatives including a video message from a local poet; the announcement of highlights of the year-round poetry program in Potocki Palace and Miłosz Poetry Festival, as well as the new ICORN writer in residence in Kraków; projections of poetry on walls in Polish and English; a conversation about Miłosz recorded in his apartment; and recorded readings by citizens of Kraków to honor the 100th birthday of 3 poets.

Kuhmo, Finland
Kuhmo will launch a cycle of videos featuring local poets and showcasing their poems, attitudes, and influence on the world. The videos will be available in both the Finnish and English languages and will be published for World Poetry Day on the Kuhmo City of Literature YouTube channel.

Ljubljana, Slovenia
To celebrate World Poetry Day Ljubljana will make a 3-hour video of 21 poets, each reading one of their own poems and one other of their choosing. The traditional World Poetry Day 24-hour ma-rathon poetry reading will take place later in the year on 11-12 September.

Lviv, Ukraine
Poetry readings will take place in four libraries in the city and suburbs, where anyone can read a poem that touches on the theme of ‘Reconnecting’. This online marathon will be broadcast on Lviv’s City of Literature and Central Library System websites and social media.

Manchester, England
Manchester will create a film of poets reading their work outside iconic doorways to be broadcast on 21 March, and 2 of the readings will be of newly commissioned poetry. The event will be delivered in partnership with Manchester Poetry Library. Poets are invited to respond to the theme of the door as a portal. Poems are sought that give hope in dark times and see the door as a gateway or the start of a new journey. The poems will be broadcast on YouTube and social media.

Milan, Italy
In the online event Poeti in parallelo – Poetas en paralelo 60 guest poets – 25 from Cuba, 25 from Italy and 10 from Spain – will be paired up to offer readings of one poem each, in their mother tongue. The readings will be combined with projections of images or video art, inspired by the characteristics of the work of each author, thus creating a collection of poetic videos to be broad-cast on the City of Literature YouTube and Facebook. Also an open-air event, Liturgia (laica) della parole, will take the form of a silent march, interrupted from time to time by a poem, an extract or a thought, dedicated to Culture – a counter-clockwise roundabout, symbolising an attempt to turn back time to a celebration of life.

Nanjing, China
At the World Poetry Day Roundtable poets and critics will discuss the importance of poetry in modern life, with featured performances and salons presenting the convergence of poetry, dance and music. Parallel celebrations will take place at various places, including bookshops, Nanjing University, primary schools, the city wall, and museums for groups that include stu-dents, children, and the visually-impaired.

Nottingham, England
City of Literature partner Nottingham Trent University is celebrating World Poetry Day with the launch of its online poetry anthology, The Story of Us, produced by members of its extracurricular Writing Reading and Pleasure (WRAP) programme. From 1-21 March, WRAP will share a poem a day online as well as videos from writers. The poems explore the past, present and future, writing new worlds into existence. Also Nottingham’s ‘Poets Against Racism’ collective is planning an online poetry event for UN-Anti-Racism Day and this event will also be shared on World Poetry Day.

Óbidos, Portugal
With World Poetry Day at its heart, the Óbidos Poetry Festival will run for over a month with the following highlights: poetry recitation by both the local community and professional actors; children’s workshops; radio programs and podcasts; and the inauguration of literary residencies and the new public library and story centre. All activities are available on YouTube.

Odessa, Ukraine
World Poetry Day will be celebrated as part of Odessa’s online International Literary and Musical Festival Music of Words from 19 to 22 March. The program will feature poetry recitation; a literary and musical concert; and a gala concert in the Litmuseum including an awards ceremony.

Québec City, Canada
The poetry festival, Le Mois de la Poésie, is offering a series of poetic podcasts available through-out March. The Amuse-bouches, spécial poésie podcast will be launched on World Poetry Day and available on Facebook and YouTube, with an actor and musician teaming up to read original poems.

Reykjavík, Iceland
Following Reykjavík’s celebration of poetry in February 2021, when a new poetry video was posted every day from the dawn to dusk reading on New Year’s Day, during the week of World Poetry Day there will be an open poetry event at the Reykjavík City Library. Local poets will perform, and poet-ry readings by Reykjavík poets will be published on the City of Literature‘s new podcast.

Seattle, United States
Seattle will celebrate World Poetry Day with its Civic Poet and a collective of womxn-identified poets. They will present Womxn and Whales First, Poetry in a Climate of Change.

Tartu, Estonia
Tartu will celebrate World Poetry Day with an online poetry program. Everybody is invited to record and send in poetry videos, either original works or the works of others. The event is not limited by language and videos are welcomed from all parts of the world, especially from the Cities of Literature, for posting on a dedicated Facebook page during the day. Four poetry videos by local poets will be premiered, pre-recorded in cafes and bars to keep past traditions alive.

Ulyanovsk, Russia
Ulyanovsk will offer a Poems by e-mail initiative for World Poetry Day. Everyone across Russia will be invited to fill out a short online form, including an e-mail address, a brief message regarding content and preferred language, and the City of Literature Office, together with student volunteers studying literature, will choose a relevant poem. On World Poetry Day, the first 150 people to submit a form will receive poetry by e-mail. The event will celebrate the unifying role of poetry.

Utrecht, Netherlands
Utrecht is commencing a new initiative, A year of poetry and a patchwork of poetic languages. New talent Yentl van Stokkum will write the first 3 lines of a poem that will be published on World Poet-ry Day 2021. Every 21st of the month subsequently Utrecht will publish 3 new lines by a poet from a City of Literature in reaction to the expanding poem. On World Poetry Day 2022 the finished poem will be presented online and handed out in bookstores in Utrecht as a luxurious postcard.

Wonju, South Korea
In alignment with the theme ‘Reconnecting People’, 5 active local poets will read their work in Korean, and will be recorded. One film will be uploaded each day for 5 days, along with the illustrated poems, on both the Korean language Facebook page and on the English Facebook page.

One Book Two Book’s Write Out Loud event to premiere at 1 p.m., Feb. 28

The Write Out Loud celebration of student writing, held virtually this year, will premiere on YouTube at 1 p.m. CST on Sunday, Feb. 28. The celebration is the highlight of this year’s annual One Book Two Book Children’s Literature Festival. Watch the presentation here.

The video features the grade-level winners in the One Book Two Book writing competition. Students in Corridor districts were encouraged to submit one page of original writing. Those submissions were evaluated by a team at ACT in Iowa City. In each grade, first through eighth, winners were selected in two categories. They are:

• The Write Stuff, which is judged based on language, clarity, structure, and emotional impact.
• From the Heart, judged based on creativity, passion, and expressiveness.

The students who will read are:

First Grade: Dustin Nguyen, Borlaug Elementary – The Write Stuff; Lake Spak, Mann Elementary – From the Heart.

Second Grade: Sophia Nguyen, Borlaug Elementary – The Write Stuff; Anjana Mathews, Wickham Elementary – From the Heart

Third Grade: Abigail Chen, Wickham Elementary – The Write Stuff; Lyan Hussein, Coralville Central Elementary – From the Heart

Fourth Grade: Olivia Rantanen, Willowwind School – The Write Stuff; Ezra O’Connor, Lemme Elementary – From the Heart

Fifth Grade: Mirka Punekar, Coralville Central Elementary – The Write Stuff; Maggie Nguyen, Borlaug Elementary – From the Heart

Sixth Grade: Leon Xie, Wickham Elementary – The Write Stuff; Adelaide Capps, Mann Elementary – From the Heart

Seventh Grade: Maxwell Brown, South East Junior High – The Write Stuff; Sienna Brown, South East Junior High – From the Heart

Eighth Grade: Luis Holanda Solano, Scattergood Friends – The Write Stuff; Claire Franzwa, North Central Junior High – From the Heart

In addition, honorable mention students were selected, and will be recognized as part of the program:

Second graders Nate Cwiertny , Weber Elementary; and Inaaya Ali,Wickham Elementary
Third grader Amara Pfeifer, Wickham Elementary.
Fourth grader Cora Beland, Coralville Central Elementary.
Fifth grader Anaya Patill, Penn Elementary.
Sixth graders Hattie Galloway, Hoover Elementary; and Ben Haines, Lincoln Elementary.
Seventh grader Katelyn Wu, Clear Creek Amana Middle School.
Eighth grader Anora Klauke, South East Junior High.

100 Days of War and Peace begins Feb. 1

Following on successful community reading projects in 2020, the City of Literature once again offers the chance join with others from around the world to read a classic novel. This time we will gather to read Leo Tolstoy’s classic, War and Peace. Over 100 days, from Feb. 1-May 10, we will read a section every day and discuss it here with our host, Anna Barker.

Anna, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Iowa, will assign each day’s reading of about 10 to 14 pages, and offer commentary. This commentary, and what promises to be a robust discussion of the book, can be found in a special group on the City of Literature’s Facebook page. You also can read Anna’s introductions to the book and learn about the reading assignments at the War and Peace page on our website.

We recommend the translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, but you can join along with any version you have at hand. Please join us for this exciting reading project!

#17Booksfor17SDGs 2020 Picks

By Brooke Sarrazin, Marketing Assistant

Last month our organization and 14 other sibling Cities of Literature took part in our second annual “17 Books for the 17 SDGs” social media campaign. From December 7-23 each city posted a book with ties to their city that corresponded with one of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The idea behind the campaign is to raise awareness for the SDGs, and to provide readers with a complete list of books that relate to sustainable development in their community. Below you’ll find Iowa City’s book picks coupled with a brief description of each goal and links to supporting information.

Goal 1: No Poverty

Poverty is found in every corner of the world, whether or not it is seen by a community’s most affluent population. The UN defines poverty as persons living on less than $1.25/day. Since the COVID-19 crisis, the number of people living in poverty began to increase for the first time since 1990, reversing 30 years of progress. Poverty targets the most vulnerable and least powerful populations which is why poverty often follows conflict, natural disasters, crises, and political instability. Refugees and forcibly displaced persons are among the most impoverished and most difficult to lift out of poverty. According to the World Bank, there are about 79.5 million forcibly displaced people, and since 2010 there have been historically high numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers. The displaced themselves are often escaping conflict or persecution and are extremely vulnerable and impoverished. Often times, the host communities themselves are struggling with their own poverty hardships and struggle to find adequate resources to support an influx of refugees.

Our pick for SDG 1 is Exodus by Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate ‘Gbenga Adeoba. Exodus focuses on forms of migration due to slave trade, war, natural disasters, and economic opportunity. This book works to tell experiences of the exiled and displaced through poetry.

More about SDG 1. 

More about the link between forced displacement and poverty.