O, Miami:A Poetry Festival

By Monica Torres

“Poetry is a living, breathing force that can light up the city. O, Miami is its platform.” Alberto Ibargüen, President John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Poetry comes to the city!  April, the cruelest month, is around the corner, but it’s not cruel at all because it’s National Poetry Month.  And, this means O, Miami Poetry Festival hits the town!

O, Miami attempts to deliver a poem to every person in the Magic City. In 2011, poems were flown behind planes, dropped out of helicopters, sewed into clothing, and attached them to every single bus in Miami-Dade County. O, Miami produced events with actors (James Franco); choreographers (Jonah Bokaer, Rashaun Mitchell); artists (Anne Carson, Sam Winston); and, yes, poets (W.S. Merwin, Tracy K. Smith, Raúl Zurita). The festival was covered nationally and internationally by The New Yorker, NPR’s Morning Edition, Dwell magazine, Best American Poetry, and the Associated Press, and chronicled in a new Knight Foundation report.

The “Airplane Poems”

There is poet in everyone, and one of the great things about the festival is that everyone and anyone can and should get involved, and deliver a little piece of their spirit to the burning flame. With all its water, skylines, sunshine, alcohol-billboard-ads grazing the highways, babes-in-stilletoes, hipsters, and graffiti from Hialeah to Brickell- this city is filled with contradictions, a rich breeding ground for art.

“Poetry Bombing” with Augustina Woodgate for O, Miami

Pull out your notebooks, or Blackberrys, go somewhere quiet in nature, and meditate on your love affair or love-hate relationship with the city.  Just write!  (Or, in the eternal words of Madonna, “Express Yourself!”)

Come all ye poets:

1. Write Poems

  • Write a poem that begins or ends with the line “Thats So Miami” and tweet with #ThatsSoMiami or submit it to The Miami Herald.  The best will be posted on ThatsSoMiami.tumblr.com and read on 91.3 FM. At the end of the month, a book called “That’s O, Miami” using the best of the best will be created.
  • Write a poem that’s 50 characters or less (including spaces) and e-mail to [email protected]. The winning poem will be flown behind an airplane.
  • Pin your poems.  ArtCenter/South Florida is hosting Pin Up Pop Up Poetry. Poets are invited to push-pin their poems (original or one that inspires you) onto the walls at the ArtCenter/South Florida at 800-810 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. The poems can be on any kind of paper including post-its, photographs or drawings and put up with a push pin. The project will also have its own reading on April 24th at The Richard Shack Gallery, 924 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. To sign up, email Beatricia Sagar at [email protected].

2.  Read Poems

  • The Writer’s Room at The Betsy-South Beach is sponsoring two different opportunities for your work to be heard by Miami’s poetry audience. First, they’re hosting two open mic nights, April 4th and April 14th, in their downstairs speakeasy B Bar. Both nights start at 7pm. To sign up, email [email protected] and put “OPEN MIC” in the subject heading.
  • The second project is called “Soapbox,” and it’s modeled after Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park London. Every day at 5pm, beginning on April 1st and ending on April 30th, one poet will read from the front porch of The Betsy-South Beach. Each poet will read two poems: one poem of his/her own; and one poem by another poet that has influenced him/her. Spaces are going fast…really fast. Email [email protected] and put “SOAPBOX” in the subject heading.
  • Finally, Miami rock music legend Rat Bastard is hosting his own first-come, first-serve open mic reading at Churchill’s Pub in Little Haiti on April 23rd at 9 p.m. Show up with your poem, get a beer, and get in line.

3.  Bring a Dead Poet Back to Life

  • The Poetry is Dead Parade is coming! On the last Sunday of April, “dead poets” will take over Miami Beach in the form of the first-ever Poetry is Dead Parade. The parade will act as a funeral procession in reverse and a reply to the common assertion that poetry is dead. Selected performances featuring local students and arts groups, positioned as stops along the parade route, will act as inspired re-awakenings or summonings of the spirits of dead poets. The parade will take place at Lummus Park, Miami Beach beginning at noon on April 28th. Want to honor your favorite dead poet through a performance in the Poetry Is Dead Parade? Email [email protected] and put “PARADE” in the subject heading.

4. Volunteer

  • Would you like to help O, Miami deliver poems to our fellow citizens? Email: [email protected] and put “VOLUNTEER” in the subject heading.

5. Attend

  • The O, Miami schedule of events is up on the website. Some are produced by the University of Wynwood; some are produced by partners. Definitely pencil the weekend of April 25-28 in your calendar right now. That weekend, the visiting poets will be in town for the first-ever “POETRY SPRING BREAK” – a four day celebration of contemporary poetry headquartered at The Betsy-South Beach and taking place all over Miami Beach. Check the website for the list of poets.

University of Wynwood is a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to advancing contemporary literature in Miami, FL. UW is made possible through support from the John S. and James L. Knight FoundationMiami-Dade CountyThe Betsy Hotel, and the City of Miami Beach.

The poems can be funny (examples via WLRN):

Missed the bus because
it was so late, it came
early. #ThatsSoMiami
— Ariel Henriquez

Imagine: some of us
are not on vacation.
— Zach Hickman



#ThatsSoMiami, at 9 a.m., a dead dog
in the middle of NW 7th Ave, two
constructions workers standing
beside it, drinking cans of Busch Light.
— Kate Ann Heidelbach

#ThatsSoMiami, the way the sun
rises through the window
breaks away the hidden
story I was trying not to tell.
— Kate Ann Heidelbach

Funny & sad:

Abuela tells me
I’m too fat, hands
me a pastelito de guayaba.
— Caridad McCormick

Even the mannequins
are surgically enhanced.
— Katherine Villari


The poems can be anything they want. That’s the beauty of poetry. See you there and bring your poetic spirits (berets and clove cigarettes may or may not be included)!

A brand-new series of projects, interventions, and events that will once again re-imagine what’s possible in the presentation of contemporary poetry, including:

  • A special celebration with Thurston Moore, lead singer of Sonic Youth; Richard Blanco, the Miami-raised poet who read at the 2013 Presidential Inauguration; and Megan Amram, a poet, comedian, and writer for the NBC show Parks & Recreation
  • A final weekend, hosted by The Betsy Hotel-South Beach, that will feature readings and performances from the most diverse group of poets we’ve ever assembled, including Kevin Young, Chase Twitchell, Jean Portante, Jose Angel Leyva, Eduardo C. Corral, and Frank Báez