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, the Johnson County Senior Center 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.
  • NOTE - Please keep in mind that selected poems are printed on 11" x 17" posters for some display purposes. (See samples of selected poems below).  Lengthy poems require that the font size be reduced which reduces readability and should be avoided.

Entries should be submitted by 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019 through the new online submission process:

Poetry in Public 2019 On-Line Submission

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The submission form can also be printed and completed:

Printable Submission Form

Mail or drop off to:

City Hall
Attn: Poetry in Public
410 E. Washington Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

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For questions or other details call Marcia Bollinger at 319-356-5237 or e-mail marcia-bollinger@iowa-city.org.


Selected poems

2018

Poetry in Public 2018 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2018 student poetry

2017

Poetry in Public 2017 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2017 student poetry

Poetry Readings by several 2017 poets

2016

Poetry in Public 2016 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2016 student poetry

2015

Poetry in Public 2015 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2015 student poetry

2014

Poetry in Public 2014 adult poetry

Poetry in Public 2014 student poetry

2013

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.