O, Miami: Poetry for the People in April

Month-Long Series Of Events Planned Including Biggest Poetry Reading

Monica Torres

“Is it the people? Houses? Fields? The Weather? / Is it the streets? Is it these things together? / Nothing here ever changes, till it does.”


The above triplet from the second stanza of Joshua Mehigan’s rhetorical poem Here in which the speaker ponders on the mutability of a place could be about sunny Miami. But, the poem, which is taken from his upcoming book Accepting the Disaster, further describes a place where the seasons leave their colorful marks on nature.

The lines, “Each fall the dew point falls until it rises./ White snow, green buds, green lawn, red leaves, white snow,” clearly depict a place far colder and altering with the elements. Miami is a city without seasons. Without the changes of nature that inspire such poetic metaphors, suspended here in an immutable summer, one might wonder if our tropical element lacks the ability to breed the depth that thrives in watching things die and bloom.

Back by popular demand this atypical Magic City Spring (from April 1, 2014 to April 30, 2014), the O, Miami Poetry Festival will help answer the question and show the rest of the country that the sunny embers of South Florida can ignite the fires of poesy in its people. As one of the festival’s public art projects titled [Here], different lines from Mehigan’s poem will be embedded with a hyperlink to the full-length piece on the websites of Miami organizations including our very own

The online poetry installation is meant to express how these various cultural organizations are all interconnected, strung together like pieces of a poetic garland, beautifying our city. [Here] is just one of many experimental, creative projects from the third annual O, Miami Poetry Festival.

Poetry in the Park

Photographer: Robin Hill

Poetry in the Park

"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,” says Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation. Sponsored by the Knight Foundation, the annual literary festival seeks to bring a poem to every person (about 2.6 million residents) in Miami-Dade County for the entire month of April, which was inaugurated National Poetry Month in 1996. The 2014 O, Miami Poetry Festival is presenting a more inclusive and impressive project line-up than it has in previous years.

According to organizer Scott Cunningham, “As O, Miami grows and progresses, we’re constantly trying to find new ways to meet the mission of reaching everyone in Miami. One of the things we’ve put more and more emphasis on is enlisting locals as co-creators of the festival. Poetry is about empowerment for us, which means that we want Miami to take ownership over the festival. We don’t want O, Miami to be something we impress upon our home, but something that our home takes ownership over. About half of our programming budget this year is composed of other people’s ideas, and going forward, we’d like to increase that percentage.”

Some of this year’s events include the "biggest" poetry reading in the history of Miami, which will project poet laureates reciting verses onto the Soundscape’s 7000 square-foot wall, a Florida poetic scratch-off lottery where visual artists meets wordsmiths, a drunken Bukowski-style literary pub-crawl, a house of literary and spiritual wellness, a collective zine fair, and a community garden poetry tree building event.

Poetry at the R.Y.P.E. Buena Vista Community Garden. Verse by Monica Torres:

Photographer: Vera Arias

Poetry at the R.Y.P.E. Buena Vista Community Garden. Verse by Monica Torres: "if we are rain/ you are my sun-shower/ i am a hurricane."


Here is a detailed look at some of the poetic celebrations that will take place throughout the month of April in Miami this year:

Picnic in the Park/Poets Laureate in the Park (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. Former U.S. Poets Laureate Robert Hass and Kay Ryan will join National Book Award-winner Nikki Finney for an intimate reading inside the New World Symphony, while a crowd will watch the reading for free in Soundscape Park as it’s live-projected onto the 7,000 square foot wall of the symphony. 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 “biggest” poetry reading in the history of Miami.

The 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.

The Poetry Lottery (April 1-30)

Artist Agustina Woodgate and poet Mary Reufle have joined forces to create the Poetry Lottery: a 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.

Fire Dreams- Matt Roberts and poet Terri Witek (April 1-30)

When we walk through cities, our bodies enter the dreams of other people who’ve walked there. New media artist Matt Roberts and poet Terri Witek map Miami by floating assorted “dreamers” over various metropolitan spaces. City wanderers then follow this walkable dream map via an augmented reality phone app. Along the way, they are offered chances to see a dream, hear dream-poem, text a dream-poem of their own, and perform various other transmittable acts. These become a poetic dream map of the city.

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

Wynwood’s favorite watering hole Gramp’s will host thirty one-day residencies for poets. Miami-area poets may apply on-line 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.

People Poetry with Quinn Smith (April 1-30)

Mining the vastness of Twitter, to create poetic alchemy, the project starts by reviewing Twitter with a search term Miami, taking one posted picture & a series of tweets, and then arranging those tweets into a poem. Standard computer software is enough: 1). Place the poem on the pix w/PowerPoint 2). Create the image w/Microsoft Paint 3). Hashtag it #omiami w/credits for everyone who feeds that contribution. This project is open to anyone.

A Funeral Procession for Juan Gelman (April 1-30)

To commemorate the death of Argentine poet Juan Gelman, artist Jordan Marty will drive through every single neighborhood playing a bilingual recording of a previously recorded reading by Gelman of a fictional American cowboy’s laments in (The Poems of Sidney West) poetry via a short-wave transistor radio.

This is Just to Say…. Elena Errazuriz (April 1-30)

Passers-by during the midday pause at a college campus are invited to read The Red Wheelbarrow/This is Just to Say by William Carlos Williams. When ready by a variety of people, the poem is given the gift of each reader’s pitch, inflection, rhythm.

Poetry Spoke Cards - Elsbeth Pancrazi & Brett Fletcher Lauer (April 1-30)

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

Home- Beyond Geography- Juana Meneses & Leila A. Leder Kremer

Home: Beyond Geography is a participatory writing project created by interdisciplinary artists Juan Meneses and Leil Leder Kremer. The project explores the identity of our port city, mapping Miami’s resident’s personal histories. During the month of April, Juana & Leila will visit- armed with pens paper, maps- different Miami Dade neighborhoods with an opening line to poems around the themes of identity, home & mobility. Juana and Leila will prompt those they meet to respond to the poems, which will be collected, copied & distributed to residents during subsequent visits to other districts. The result- a poetry exchange between Miami Dade 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.

Bite into Poetry - Willa Kaufman and Elizabeth Jacobs

Mother/daughter team from New Mexico, Willa is a senior film and creative writing student at University of Miami, and Elizabeth is the founding director of The WingSpan Poetry Project in Santa Fe, which brings weekly poetry classes to the women residents at the Esperanza Shelter for Battered Families. Elizabeth taught for many years in public elementary schools as a teaching artist with ArtWorks. She is the author of Her Knees Pulled In, a book of poems.

Road Sage- P. Scott Cunningham

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 stuck in their cars. The project has 2 main locations: 1). Biscayne Blvd & NE 22nd St & 2) NE 79th St and TBD.

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 a Haitian sign artist. “Sometimes my fiancé Christina is driving home on Biscayne Blvd,” says 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.” So I decided to write a love poem to Christina on the window that could also serve as a general message for everyone on Biscayne 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.

Christina Pettersson (project title TBD)

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, even creativity. For instance, handwriting has been proving as a better tool for imprinting words to memory that typing. In “_______” 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-Dade chosen randomly out of the White Pages. “I do hope to reintroduce 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 t he mail, lovingly conceived and written, certain to be remembered.”

Pin-Up Poetry at ArtCenter/South Florida (April 1- 30th/Reading April 13)

Pin Up Pop Up Poetry

Photographer: Courtesy of O, Miami

Pin Up Pop Up Poetry

Poets are invited to push-pin their poems onto the walls at the ArtCenter/ South Florida at 800-810 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Poets and all artists can do this with original poems or poems that inspire them (proper credit given). The poems can be on any kind of paper including post-its, photographs or drawings and put up with a push pin.

Poetry Readings

  • Under the Influence with Cathy Bowman (April 2). Miami poet Campbell McGrath hosts a night of influences with visiting poet Cathy Bowman and UM’s Jawinder Bolina. Each poet will present poems that have influenced their work.
  • 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 and 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)

Cuban, Cuban-American, Spanish, and Chicano poetry

Readings, discussions, and workshops with: Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize-winner José Kozer (April 9), Spanish poet Elena Medel (April 16), local Miami poet Yosie Crespo with Cuban poet Legna Rodríguez Iglesias in her first visit to the US discussing Generation Zero, a new crop of Cuban and Cuban-American poets (April 23), and American Book Award-winner Jimmy Santiago Baca (April 27).

Poetry Karaoke with Annick Adey-Babinski (April 12)

Come show off your poetry reading chops at Poetry karaoke, our night of off-the-cuff poetics. Even if you never memorized The Waste Land, our DJ has you covered with her lyric videos, so you’ll never miss a owr.d Read with the greats! Bust out your Shakespeare chops or go contemporary w/ a Plath poem, you choose from our Karaoke men. BYOB baby- it’s a house party!

Poetry at the RYPE Buena Vista Community Garden (April 12)

Let’s explore nature’s relationship to poetry. Join us for a day of poetry and gardening at the R.Y.P.E. (Reclaim Your Power and Equality) Community Garden in Buena Vista. There will be treats and refreshments for everyone! We will open the floor for an ’Open Mic Poetry Reading’ at 5 p.m. Bring an original or favorite poem exploring the interconnectedness of nature and poetry, sustainability, and personal empowerment to share in an installation. We will also be creating poetry trees with poetry and art installations using recyclable materials. R.S.V.P at

Free workshop for Miami student editors (April 19)

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 (April 19), in addition to his translations of the great Mexican poet Miguel Hernandez.

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 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.

Speaktacular -Ashley M. Jones & Darius Daughtry (April 17)

Poetry. Music. Dance. Visual Art. All of these are elements of SPEAKtacular, a full-scale production that combines these art forms in a one-of-a-kind show. 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. Event organizers and poets Darius and Ashley M. Jones.

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. Co-presented with Edible South Florida.

For more information along with a complete line-up of O,Miami happenings please visit

Go Poetry!

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