O, Miami Poetry Festival

O, Miami brings poetry to the community for a month


If you go

What: Poetry Is Dead Parade, performances featuring local students and arts groups

Where: Lummus Park across from The Betsy-South Beach, 1440 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach

When: Noon April 28

What: O, MI! featuring readings from poets Megan Amran, Richard Blanco and Thurston Moore

Where: New World Center Symphony Hall, 500 17th St., Miami Beach

When: 7 p.m. April 28

Tickets: $20, $30 (with tote gift bag) and $50 (with tote gift bag and copy of Richard Blanco’s One Today)

For a complete list of events visit www.omiami.org


Richard Blanco, Obama’s inaugural poet, along with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Parks and Recreation writer Megan Amram and William Shakespeare, Jose Martí and Walt Whitman promise to bring the month-long, communitywide O, Miami Poetry Festival to a lively close on April 28 in Miami Beach.

Or, as lively as a parade — dubbed the Poetry Is Dead Parade — featuring famous poets reanimated as “walkers,” ala AMC’s runaway hit, The Walking Dead.

“The idea is that stops along the way on the parade reanimate, momentarily, a dead poet, done by local theater and student groups,” said P. Scott Cunningham, 34, one of O, Miami’s founders and the creator of the nonprofit arts organization, University of Wynwood.

“A couple artists take a dead poet like Jose Martí or Shakespeare and bring this person back to life. That whole last weekend we jokingly refer to as poetry spring break,” Cunningham said, laughing.

While promoting poetry is a mission of the biennial O, Miami Festival, promoting a sense of community through the written word is equally important, says organizers.

For example, writer Nathaniel Sandler’s Weird Miami walking tour of Miami Beach alleys in April put the spotlight on a glimpse of the city often overlooked and untapped by club- and beach-goers.

Guests joined Sander, 31, to roam the alleys off Washington, Collins and Ocean Drive, behind the Wolfsonian and Versace mansion — to look from the back rather than the front — while reading from the works of Whitman, Charles Bukowski, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Frank O’Hara.

“We were exploring the other half of the street, reading a bunch of poems from famous poets who have sort of looked into the streets,” Sandler said. “I live on South Beach and the alleyways are underutilized thoroughfares. We walk through them and look at different symbols and objects found there and stop along the way and read poems.’’

Sandler and Cunningham are also involved in the monthly mobile library events in which they visit gathering spaces like the Miami Science Museum or the Wallcasts at New World Center on Lincoln Road and distribute free donated books to the public. As part of O, Miami, the mobile library visited the Betsy Hotel on Tuesday to hand out poetry books during Campbell McGrath’s reading. McGrath, an FIU professor of creative writing, has received MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships.

O, Miami, which is sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, also commissioned a variety of projects around Miami-Dade through April, including a poetry workshop at the Overtown Youth Center where poets like Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns helped students write their own poems. In addition, the festival hosted a flash mob poetry reading on the Upper East Side, distributed coasters emblazoned with poetry verse to area bars and left poems inside cars at the Wynwood Car2Go car-sharing company.

The latter program, Poem2Go, was created by Palmer Trinity seniors Danielle Rothfeldt and Katie Brockway, both 17.

“This was a good way to bring awareness to poems around Miami,” Katie said. “The poems we chose for all the cars were about driving.” Hence, the inclusion of Robert Frost’s classic, The Road Not Taken.

“Poetry is a way to find out how you’re feeling, you can express yourself in a different way than just telling someone,” Katie said. “Poetry spices it up.”

Danielle likes poetry for its brevity. “Poems are concise most of the time and can be open to interpretation. They are not specifically telling you something, they leave you able to ask questions.”

Annik Adey-Babinski, 25, who is studying for her master’s in creative writing at FIU, looked to the popularity of sports for her project, O, Sport. Adey-Babinski created a series of cards with sports-related verse. She plans to hand them out at a series of events at the Allapattah YMCA, at the FIU baseball game on Saturday and at the Miami Marlins game on April 29.

“The point is to bring poetry to sports fans who might not turn to poetry to express passion,” Adey-Babinski said. “O, Miami is about bringing poetry to Miami-Dade. I thought it would be nice to go to someone else’s turf and make poetry comfortable for them.”

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

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