Arts: O, Miami!

P. Scott Cunningham leading The Dead Poets Parade on Boardwalk

P. Scott Cunningham leading The Dead Poets Parade on Boardwalk

City Becomes Canvas for Literary Arts in April.

If event organizers have their way, Miami-Dade County will become a canvas for the literary arts throughout the entire month of April. Specifically, poetry is coming into focus; and if O, Miami reaches its goal, everyone in the county will have an experience with poetry in some form in some venue this month.

“We hope to reach 2.8 – 2.9 million people, however many people there are in Miami-Dade County,” said O, Miami Executive Director P. Scott Cunningham. “We know the goal is spiritual but we do make it a goal and try every year. We know we are going to fall short, but we hope to reach more people each year.”

Leading the pack at Dead Poets Parade

Leading the pack at Dead Poets Parade

What began as a relatively small “Poetry for all” event evolves this year into a countywide, month-long celebration of poetry thanks to an increase in grant money from the Knight Foundation. A small early grant let organizers put together a visiting poets program, Cunningham said.

“We began bringing emerging poets to South Florida and maybe brought 14-15 here in two years with very little money,” Cunningham said. “We used to sell poems on the streets for money – that kind of grassroots stuff.”

Cunningham said that the Knight Foundation came back with an interesting proposal, asking Cunningham to put together a more ambitious proposal.

“That became O, Miami,” he said.

However, it was no easy conceptual process. Initially, Cunningham said, he planned the kind of event that would attract “75 people, all of whom I know,” for workshops and the such.

“I looked at what I was putting together and I knew this wasn’t what they were looking for – they were looking for something larger,” Cunningham said. He said that he got advice from a local poet with experience with institutions and ended up with the month-long countywide plan to try to bring poetry into the lives of all South Floridians.”

Last August, O, Miami received word that founding sponsor Knight Foundation would be supporting the festival as an annual event, and a new poetic takeover of Miami-Dade County is now ready to be unveiled.

“We’re thrilled to once again surprise Miamians,” said Cunningham.

Writing a poem by hand

Writing a poem by hand

Both a celebration of contemporary poetry and an experimental project to turn a metropolitan area into a canvas for the literary arts, O, Miami weaves poetry into existing infrastructures and combines it with other forms in order to democratize participation in the arts. (See accompanying sidebars.)

“Poetry is a living, breathing force that can light up the city. O, Miami is its platform. The written word leaves the printed page for a parade on South Beach, morphs into interpretive dance in Hialeah, and along the way helps art become part of people’s everyday lives,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation.

Cunningham comes to his love of poetry naturally.

“I always liked reading and writing,” he said. “I always wrote poems, but I never showed them to anyone. In college, I had a couple of friends who were serious writers and I wanted to be like them.”

Cunningham said he began studying writing, soon started writing poems and has been writing them ever since.

Nikky Finney

Nikky Finney

Among the numerous events making up O, Miami is Poetry in the Park, on Saturday, April 5 at Miami Beach’s Soundscape Park. Readings inside the New World Symphony by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and National Book Award-winner Nikki Finney readings will be broadcast in Soundscape Park, from 5-8 p.m., along with free music and performances in the park. At 8 p.m., visitors are encouraged to throw down a picnic blanket and enjoy the happening of live music and word lawn games, among other activities. There will even be many opportunities to write a poem or have one written for you.

“I am really, really looking forward to that,” Cunningham said. “I love Art Walls exhibits. I love outdoor movies. That park and that building are so important. It’s a wonderful opportunity. I really hope people wander by mistake and find themselves stopping to listen.”

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. O, Miami was inspired by Knight Foundation’s arts program, which aims to engage and enrich communities in part by bringing art to unexpected places. For more, visit

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Poetry in the Park (Sat., April 5)

O, Miami Poetry Festival partners with New World Symphony and the City of Miami Beach to present a new kind of live poetry reading in Soundscape Park when the readings inside the New World Symphony by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and National Book Award-winner Nikki Finney readings’ will be broadcast in Soundscape Park. From 5-8 p.m., enjoy free music and performances in the park. At 8 p.m., spread out your picnic blanket and enjoy the happening of live music, word lawn games, among other activities. There will be many opportunities to write a poem or have one written for you.

Edgewater Poetry & Athletics Club (April 1-30)

A partnership with The Related Group, the E.P.A.C. is a two-story house that O, Miami is transforming into a community wellness center for the month of April. Spiritually depleted? Physically lethargic? Come to the Edgewater Poetry & Athletics Club during the month of April for poetry readings, water aerobics, yoga, meditation, zine fairs, and games of pick-up basketball.

Cuban, Cuban-American, Spanish, and Chicano poetry

O, Miami will feature readings, discussions, and workshops with:

- Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize-winner José Kozer (April 8)

- Spanish poet Elena Medel (April 16)

- Cuban poet Legna Rodríguez Iglesias & Miami poet Yosie Crespo (April 23)

-American Book Award-winner Jimmy Santiago Baca (April 27)

Poetry Readings with:

- Stephanie Strickland, Denise Duhamel, Julie Marie Wade (April 7) Poet Stephanie Strickland reads from her work and exhibits digital experimentations with web-based literature. Miami poets Denise Duhamel and Julie Marie Wade co-star.

- Poetry & Race with Jaswinder Bolina (April 10) A panel on the topic of race as it intersects with contemporary American poetry, with examples.

- Don Share (April 19)

Poet-in-Residence at Gramp’s Bar (April 1-30)

Wynwood’s favorite watering hole Gramp’s will host 30 one-day residencies for poets. Miami-area poets may apply online with a short line of verse about booze. Each poet will be given the last stool at the end of the bar. For each poem written on a cocktail napkin, the poet will receive one free beer (limit three beers). At the end of the month, Gramp’s will create a zine from the month’s worth of poems.

A Funeral Procession for Juan Gelman (TBD)

To commemorate the death of Argentine poet Juan Gelman, artist Jordan Marty will drive through every single neighborhood playing a bilingual recording of Gelman’s poetry via a short-wave transistor radio.

SPEAKtacular (April 17)

Poetry, music, dance, visual art: come together to create SPEAKtacular, a full-scale production. Youth poets from the Jason Taylor Foundation’s Omari Hardwick bluapple Poetry Network will dazzle and inspire with their words as musicians, dancers, and visual artists create and express alongside them onstage. Organized by poets Darius Daughtry and Ashley M. Jones.

Free workshop for Miami student editors (April 18)

Don Share, Executive Editor of the largest circulating poetry journal in the country, Poetry magazine, leads a free workshop for Miami-area student literary magazine editors. Share will also read his own work the following night, in addition to his translations of the great Mexican poet Miguel Hernández.

Zine Fair (April 19)

Zines are magazines made by people who don’t have the money to make magazines. O, Miami honors the long tradition of D.I.Y. publishing in Miami with a day-time zine fair thrown in partnership with Pages & Spreads and University of Miami Special Collections. Local artists and publishers will display, trade, and sell their zines. Perrier and KIND will distribute snacks, and the backyard pool at the Edgewater Poetry & Athletics Club will be open.

The Last Ride of José Martí (April 22)

An homage to the continued significance of the life and work of Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí. Actor Ivan Lopez — dressed as Martí — will ride down Calle Ocho on the back of a

white horse and distribute roses outfitted with Martí poems.

The First-ever LitCrawl Miami (April 26)

O, Miami drags the popular literary pub crawl series into the humidity. Bars and clubs on South Beach will host a variety of boozy performances by Miami-area writers from all genres and styles during a night that will test your Bukowskian pretensions. Leave your elitism at home, and bring along a designated driver.

Forager Book Release (April 29)

Brand new Miami-based publishing imprint Jai-Alai Books unveils their first book: Forager: A Brief Guide to Miami’s Edible Plants.

O, Miami 2013 ©gesischilling-20


Co-created by O, Miami and WLRN, #ThisIsWhere is a poetry contest that asks South Floridians to write short poems about the places they care about. Beginning the last week of March, WLRN will accept submissions of short poems that include the phrase “This is where…” Every Friday, WLRN will announce the top ten poems of the week on their website. On April 23rd, a list of finalists will be announced who will read at a special event on April 30th. Some contributing poets will appear on WLRN radio and WBPT2 TV. Go to for more info on how to enter.

Living with Poetry

“Living with Poetry” draws inspiration from Nicanor Parra’s antipoesia and anti-poems in order to create an experience that draws from visual, literary, and spoken poetry. The project consists of a space created by the Guatemalan-based collaborative BIP (Bureau of Public Interventions) at O, Miami’s Edgewater Poetry and Athletics Club. BIP’s mediation of the festival’s “homebase” not only serves as a reflection on how notions of the visual and the literal intersect, but also on how conceptions of public and private space are formulated. BIP is a collaborative project by Stefan Benchoam and Christian Ochaita that originated as a direct response to the lack of public spaces and infrastructures for recreation and socializing in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Their projects encourage the use of public spaces through playful elements and unusual occurrences, and are developed through their collaboration with other artists, collectives and people in general. The interventions and occurrences that they organize can be read as Situationist gestures that generate reflection and debate about their city.

Scratch-off Poetry

Artist Agustina Woodgate and poet Mary Reufle have joined forces to create the scratch-off lottery ticket that works like an erasure poem in reverse. Use a penny or your fingernail to unveil the words of an original text by Reufle. Reveal the whole thing, or co-create a new poem with Reufle by picking and choosing which words to uncover. The tickets will be distributed only in Miami-Dade County during the month of April.

HOME: Beyond Geography

Home: Beyond Geography is a participatory writing project created by interdisciplinary artists Juana Meneses and Leila A. Leder Kremer. The project explores the identity of our port city, mapping Miami’s residents’ personal histories. During the month of April 2014, Juana and Leila will visit – armed with pens, paper and maps – different Miami neighborhoods. An opening line, prompted to the neighbors, will elicit written responses around themes of identity, home and mobility. This writing will be collected, copied and distributed to residents during subsequent visits to other districts. The result: a poetry exchange between Miami residents. A selection of the poems collected, and a map showing the participating neighborhoods, will be compiled into a zine to be available for free at the conclusion of the project.

Road Sage

Consistently ranked among the top 15 most congested cities in the country, Miami is a place where people are used to sitting in traffic. “Road Sage” is an O, Miami project designed to give those people something to read while they are stuck in their cars. The project has two main locations: (1) Biscayne Blvd and NE 22nd St. and (2) NE 79th St and NW 4th Court. The Biscayne location features a stanza from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s “Sonnet XLIII” in the original Spanish, written on the windows of a building by Haitian sign artist Serge Toussaint. “Sometimes my fiancé Christina is driving home on Biscayne Blvd.,” says O, Miami Executive Director P. Scott Cunningham, “and she’ll honk as she’s passing beneath my office window. Most times however, the honks I hear below me are expressions of anger, or “road rage.” I decided to write a love poem to Christina on the window that could also serve as a general message for everyone on Biscayne who is stuck in traffic and trying to get home to someone they love.” The second location features a poem called “Flamingoes” by American poet Todd Boss that can only be described as “So Miami.”

Poetry Spoke Cards

A spoke card is a printed card suspended in the spokes of a bicycle wheel, historically to identify the cyclist’s participation in a street race. This unlikely platform has since been used to display small works from art to political endorsements. Award-winning designer Gabriele Wilson will work with poets Brett Fletcher Lauer and Elsbeth Pancrazi to create spoke cards printed with poetry, which will be distributed for free at O, Miami events and local bike shops, and through participating cycling groups. The cards will be a badge to identify poetry lovers, and an eye-catching and unexpected encounter with poetry.

Anonymous Letters

Much has been reported recently on the death of handwriting, in terms of hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, as a link between handwriting and learning ability, and even creativity. For instance, handwriting has been proving as a better tool for imprinting words to memory than typing. In “Anonymous Letters”, Miami artist Christina Pettersson will create a space where visitors can choose a poem from a book, copy it by hand onto stationary, and then mail it to an unknown person in Miami, chosen randomly out of the white pages. “I hope to re-introduce the beauty of knowing lines of poetry by rote, as people once did,” Pettersson says. “ And what unexpected pleasure to receive such a letter in the mail, lovingly conceived and written, certain to be remembered.”

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