Profiles: Scott Cunningham

PEOPLE IN THE COMMUNITY YOU SHOULD KNOW: Scott Cunningham Poetic Wonderer

Who are you?
I’m a husband to Alexandra Cunningham and a father to two very small, very poorly-behaved dogs. And a poet.

What do you do in real life?
I direct a faux-university called University of Wynwood (www.universityofwynwood.org) which produces a county-wide poetry festival called O, Miami (www.omiami.org).

What is the University of Wynwood?

Technically speaking, UW is a 501c3 nonprofit corporation with the mission of advancing contemporary literature in Miami, FL. Metaphorically speaking, we curate an imaginary Miami that exists parallel to Miami proper and inside which poetry flourishes. It’s sort of like Hogwarts, I guess. But with Jai-Alai instead of Quidditch.

Who came up with it?

I did. I thought the name was funny.

Why should we care?
You probably shouldn’t. That’s tantamount to admitting you like poetry and comes packaged with all sorts of debilitating side-effects like morality, empathy, and pipe-smoking.

Why poetry?
I don’t think there’s any experience more exhilarating than hearing or reading a poem which successfully translates something you’ve felt (or have previously never felt) into language. Not to continue this Harry Potter metaphor any further, but it really is magic.

What excites you most about what you do?
Meeting other poets, especially young poets who have only a vague notion that they might be poets.

What’s your next big project?
O, Miami. Our goal is for every single person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem during the month of April 2011. You can be a part of it by signing up for our Miami Poets Census: www.omiami.org/census. Takes two seconds.

How would you describe your personal style?
I like to explore the “what if” of things, both as a poet and as an organizer.

What do you do now, that you did not do 5 years ago?
I’d say what I don’t do is more notable. Five years ago I didn’t have enough confidence in myself as an artist, and I was constantly censoring my own ideas and keeping them constrained to my notebook, where they still speak to some sort of personal intellectual history I guess but ultimately amount to nothing.

What dream have you had that you have accomplished?

Getting my first poem published in a literary journal was pretty amazing. From there, it’s been fun to take this journey into feeling like I’m a legitimate poet. And by the way, for those reading who might be curious, publication has absolutely nothing to do with feeling legitimate. It helps, but it’s not the answer.

If you had to move to a deserted island what 2 items would you take?
My wife and an endless supply of chocolate, so my wife doesn’t kill me.

Something new, that you have just discovered about yourself?

Apparently, I am not a good dancer. This was a shock, and I wish someone would have spoken up sooner.

What is your guilty pleasure?

My friend Laura Quinlan said hers was AMC’s Mad Men but c’mon, Laura! That show is way too good to be a guilty pleasure! The Vampire Diaries, on the other hand…

One luxury that you cannot live without?
Unfortunately, my car. I’m hoping one day—while still in my lifetime—Miami public transportation will change that.

Three Words to describe you?

A morning person

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