Contributed by Monica Torres
For a month, O Miami’s black and white posters hung along Biscayne Blvd., proclaiming the following verse, “I ride for / I lie for / I cry for Dade” and “No ifs, ands, or, buts, I’m from Dade.” Their effect was either to appease or annoy lonely drivers battling their daily dose of the city’s dreadful traffic.
But, I can’t imagine I’m the only one who wondered, “Is that poetry?” Actually, they are lyrics from a Pitbull song, “Welcome to Miami.” Not sure I would consider him a poet, at all, but, hey, I don’t make the rules. And, it’s Miami, where people hardly follow them.
Yet, the posters hung high, reminding everyone that the Spring festival brought poetry, good or bad, to our hot, humid air, giving us a strange sense of pride about being from MIami, and reason to celebrate the nuances of our city.
And, who can forget the interactive, fill-in-the-blank, black tote bags gifted at the events, that made everyone an insta-poet. (See picture below) With a basic white font, spelling out lines from O, Miami founder P. Scott Cunnigham’s favorite Donald Justice poem “Variations on a Text by Vallejo,” a love letter to Miami, in which the poet exclaims, “I will die in Miami/ in the sun.” (I write this as it’s very rainy outside).
The tote bag, simple, common, classic, like the festival’s mission-to take poetry out of university walls and make the art form ordinary, like for everyone. I personally find writing poetry to be a personal act, hard like an essay test, never a fill in the blank, always 100% original, the blank page staring out at you demanding you to create and be original. And, I find reading poetry is most deeply enjoyed in quiet solitude or with a loved one. But, O, Miami showed playing wordsmith games with others to be at the very least bit, fun.
As the organizers’ exclaimed their mission, “to bring poetry to everyone in Miami,” I’d agree poetry was in many places. Poetry was, after all, on my shoulder, sort of, as I carried around my tote bag people asked me about it. And, I went for it.
My own: “I will die in love/in the sun” cheesy, I know.
My personal, most-memorable favorite: “I will die in a tote bag/in the sun”
Organizers P. Scott Cunningham and Melody Santiago Cummings brought poetry into public places, both common and special to Miamians. Unlikely places for poetry like El Palacio de Los Jugos and Publix, they have a sense of humor, and more likely places like Books and Books and the Betsy Hotel.
O, Miami flowed through the veins of our city’s heart. In the night, they went to dance clubs like the Vagabond, which hosts their signature “Stone Groove” Tuesdays, where soul-filled poets, rap dirty lyrics in a smoke-filled air, not for the faint of heart, in a lounge-style vibe, with Afros and sun-glasses-at-night.
The festival blurred city lines, from concerts at Churchill’s Pub, a staple of the city’s rock music scene and hip block parties like Sweatstock at Sweat Records to avant-garde gallery spaces like The Art Center and The LAB Miami. O, Miami truly traversed the city on a mission, involving all types of people in the act of poetry-making, ordinary people, such as tourists enjoying an afternoon juice at El Palacio de Los Jugos to artists, dancers, choreographers, painters, well-known poets, and rappers. They made poetry accessible and fun to many, while inspiring collaborations with established artists. And, they gave them all a souvenir, the ubiquitous tote bag.
At their events, O’Miami encouraged guests to stop to write their own short lyrics on an antique typewriter, or, if at a loss for words, just take the easy route and fill in the line on a tote bag. “I will die in _____/ in the sun.” Now, taking the easy route, That’s so Miami!
Go ahead..fill yours in. Put it in a comment below and share it with us.
One of the festivals most unique, smaller events, which I got to attend was Poetry Fusion. At The LAB Miami, an organic synthesis between poetry, dance, and music was the experiment. The choreographer, Adriana Pierce from the Miami City Ballet, used the intonations of sound and musicality of the poet Barbara Lisette Anderson’s words to conjure up a ballet routine. Local poets and dancers fused their passions at this event, which had a colorful botanical theme, fitting for the Spring.
At the Art Center on Lincoln Road, Pin Up Pop Up Poetry was another cool event created by Beatricia Sagar, poet and resident artist. I got to chat with Beatricia. About the connection between poetry and visual art, she said, “when you’re in the zone with poetry or painting, you are coming from the same place.” Throughout the month, people were invited to drop by and pin up poems on the walls. And the turn out was great. Over 300 were pinned up, and a record was kept of those who left a poem, leaving a permanent record showing Miami as a city of poets. The event culminated with a reading of multi-cultural poets, including Haitian poet Max Freesney Piere, author of “Soul Traveler,” who shared his love of Miami, as well as visiting poets of various ethnic backgrounds, such as AIRIE (Artist in Residence in Everglades) resident, Mary Kate Azcuy, whose poetry wasn’t about Miami at all, (she’s a Jersey girl) but who in some way had been inspired by the city, like many others. Her poems can be found in the Anrei Kodrescu’s “Exquisite Corpse.”
Till next year or two! O, Miami, we bid you farewell. Can’t wait to see what you do next!