Poetry in Public celebrates Iowa City’s rich literary tradition and local writing talent by displaying poems by writers of all ages. Iowa City is internationally recognized by UNESCO as a City of Literature. 

Poems are available for viewing all over the community - including inside city buses, at the Iowa City Public Library and Iowa City Recreation Centers, as well as many other public facilities. Poems are on display beginning in April, national poetry month, throughout the fall. 

Featured Poems are also archived below. 

Entries for Poetry in Public 2019 now being accepted

It’s time once again for local writers to submit poems for consideration in the 17th annual Poetry in Public Program, sponsored by the Iowa City Public Art Program. Writers of all ages and all levels of writing ability and experience are encouraged to submit entries to the contest. The program was initiated in 2002 to celebrate, promote and nurture the rich writing culture that exists in Iowa City.

A panel of local judges will review entries and then select poems that will be displayed throughout the Iowa City community and on local and literary websites. The winning poems will be on display on Iowa City buses, the Iowa City Public Library and the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center from May through the fall. Selected poets will also have the opportunity to read their poem during the Iowa Arts Festival in June.

Rules for the competition are as follows:

  • Entrants must be residents of Johnson County.
  • Only one poem per author will be considered. Submitted poems will not be returned.
  • The poem can be no more than seven lines in length (not including the title), and can be either an existing or new work.
  • An excerpt from a longer poem will be considered if it can stand alone.
  • Poems are generally published as is. Teachers and/or parents are encouraged to work with students on proper spelling and punctuation before submission.
  • Poems will be judged on quality of writing as well as accessibility and suitability for public display before a general audience.
  • Special complex formatting, layouts, “word art,” and use of non-standard typefaces should be avoided.
  • If reprint permissions are required, please get permission prior to submitting your work.

Entries should be accompanied by a 2019 Poetry in Public submission form, and must be turned in by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 to marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org or mailed to or dropped off at:
City Hall
Attn: Poetry in Public
410 E. Washington Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

For more information, the Submission Form and other details,  visit www.icgov.org/pip, call 319-356-5237 or e-mail marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org.

How to submit: 

Mail a hard copy 

Print or obtain a copy of the submissions form and fill it out. Mail the submission to: 

Marcia Bollinger 
City of Iowa City
410 E. Washington St.
Iowa City, IA 52240  

Email with an attachment 

  • Open the current year’s Poetry in Public submission form
  • Fill out the PDF or Word document and save a copy to your computer
  • Attach the saved document to an email addressed to marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org.

Email without an attachment

  • Send an email with all of the information from the submission form in the body of the email.


Title of poem: 

Has the poem been previously published?

If so, where?: 

Poet’s name: 


City, State, Zip:

Phone Number: 

Email Address: 

Include if 18 years of age or younger



Grade: (only if submitted by classroom include) 

Teacher’s name:

Teacher’s email:    

Note: If you send the poem in the body of the email, special formatting may be lost. If you choose to use special formatting, please include a note explaining what formatting you used. 

Send the email addressed to marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org.

If you do not receive an email confirmation that your poem has been received within two business days, please contact Marcia Bollinger at marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org or 319-356-5237. 

Selected poems


Poetry in Public 2018 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2018 student poetry


Poetry in Public 2017 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2017 student poetry

Poetry Readings by several 2017 poets


Poetry in Public 2016 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2016 student poetry


Poetry in Public 2015 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2015 student poetry


Poetry in Public 2014 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2014 student poetry


Poetry in Public 2013 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2013 student poetry

For more selected poems from previous years, please send an email to marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org.