And That's A Wrap:O, MIAMI!

By Monica Torres

It’s now May and we already miss O, Miami.  For a month, the O, Miami Poetry Festival went wherever people went. Sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, organizers P. Scott Cunningham and Melody Santiago Cummings brought poetry into public places, both common and special to Miamians. Places one would normally go to for poetry like Books and Books, and the B-Bar at the Betsy Hotel, as well as unlikely places for the elusive art form like El Palacio de Los Jugos, The Swap Shop and Publix, they have a sense of humor.

The festival pumped through the arteries of the city’s heart, our treasured hang out spots. From their “Poets that Rock” concert at Churchill’s Pub, a staple of the city’s rock music scene to avant-garde gallery spaces like the MAM and The LAB Miami, they blurred the city lines, involving many different types of people. And, location to location, they strung together a love poem to the Magic City. In the shadows of the night, they went to dance clubs like The Vagabond  for their signature “Stone Groove” on Tuesdays, where with Afros in sun-glasses-at-night, in a lounge-style vibe, soul-filled poets rap dirty lyrics in a smoke-filled air, not for the faint of heart.

Martha Raoli's winning airplane poem
Martha Raoli’s Winning Airplane Poem

O, Miami hosted their own unique events like Poetry Fusion and Pin Up Pop Up Poetry. And, they popped-up, with their classic, art-deco red typewriters, ready to make poetry at happening festivities like Big Night in Little Haiti and Sweatstock, Sweat Record’s 4:20 Block Party.  They even put poetry across the sky.

With it all they set out to bring a poem to everyone in the city…

Too many events the festival brought typewriters were people could write a short poem to keep. And, if you were brave enough to bust out a lyrical masterpiece on the spot, you got a tote bag with a fill-in-the-blank poetry game, “I will die _____/in the sun”. The lines on the bag were chosen by O, Miami founder P. Scott Cunnigham. They are from his favorite Donald Justice poem “Variations on a Text by Vallejo,” in which the poet exclaims, “I will die in Miami/ in the sun.” (I write this as it’s very rainy outside).

“I will die in a tote bag /in the sun.” Ian Michael

Below is a poem written by a tourist visiting El Palacio de los Jugos with her family, on the same day of the O, Miami Kick-off Party. The organizers chose to have the kick-off there because it’s so Miami of course!

That’s so Miami

with its blue skies

and perfect beach water

no wonder everyone wants to come

it’s like nowhere else I’ve ever seen

that’s so Miami

Josie William

That’s So Miami

tsm_logo-1Not only did they expose people to poems, but they got us making poetry together. The month-long poetry competition, “That’s So Miami,” where people were challenged to write short poems starting or ending with the phrase, “That’s so Miami,” got over 2000 entries. Moreover, the contest had a twitter, tumblr and instagram component, where people were asked to hashtag #thatssoMiami pictures (below) and short poem tweets.  The winners are to be published in a book titled, “That’s O, Miami.” Look out for it soon!

[instapress tag=”ThatsSoMiami” piccount=”12″ size=”175″ effect=”fancybox”]

Another song of the city was seen on O’Miami’s black and white posters, hung along Biscayne Blvd. On them was 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“. I have never considered him a poet, but, hey, try defining poetry. It’s inexplicable nature, like love, is part of its beauty.  And, in poetry there are no rules, perfect for Miami, a city where people like to make their own. But, 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 a reason to celebrate the nuances of our city. Speaking of pride, the ultimate test of pride for the 305 was to get some ink. At their Animal Spirits event sponsored by the Ocho Placas Tattoo Company, Miami lovers got to choose a $10 tat from the following so Miami symbols.

Poetic Fusion: Dance & Poetry

Another unique aspect of the festival was collaborating with established artists to fuse poetry with dance, art, film, and music. One of the festivals most unique, smaller events, which I got to attend was Poetic 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, said she used the intonations of sound and musicality of the poet Barbara Lisette Anderson’s words to conjure up a ballet routine. I got the chance to talk to the poet and snapped a vine, see below. Local poets and dancers fused their passions at this event, which had a colorful botanical theme, fitting for the Spring.

Visual Art & Poetry

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.

“When you’re in the zone with poetry or painting, you are coming from the same place.” Beatricia Sagar

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 they documented everyone who stopped by to pin up a poem, leaving a permanent record of 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.  Her poetry isn’t about Miami at all, but having spent time in the everglades, she was inspired by the city like many other poets and artists. Her poems can be found in the Andrei Kodrescu’s “Exquisite Corpse.”

Till next year or two! O, Miami, we bid you farewell! We can’t wait to see what you do next! Let’s keep it going…Put it in a comment below and share it with us (0r even better, share an original poem about the Magic City)!

For more information or to get involved with O, Miami visit their site and check out the University of Wynwood.