O, Miami Poetry Festival

O, Miami Poetry Festival set to slam the streets of Miami

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Loud and proud:</span> April marks the start of the O, Miami Poetry Festival, now in its third year. Seen here is last year’s Poetry is Dead Parade.
Loud and proud: April marks the start of the O, Miami Poetry Festival, now in its third year. Seen here is last year’s Poetry is Dead Parade.
Gesi Schilling / O, Miami

O, Miami Poetry Festival

When: Tuesday through April 30

Edgewater Poetry & Athletics Club: Open through April at 461 NE 31st St. in Miami.

Poetry in the Park: 5-10 p.m. Saturday, Soundscape Park, Miami Beach

Poetry Karaoke: 9-11 p.m. April 12 at Edgewater Poetry & Athletics Club

SPEAKtacular: 7 p.m. April 17, YoungArts Jewel Box, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

Selfitry: At Poetry in the Park Saturday; Zine Fair at Edgewater Poetry & Athletics Club April 19; at closing-night party at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., April 30; and other spots around town.

#ThisIsWhere: Enter a contest with WLRN by writing a short poem about your favorite South Florida place that includes the phrase “this is where.” You should be able to read it aloud in about 30 seconds. Submit it via wlrn.org or on Instagram and Twitter tagged with #ThisIsWhere. Ten poems will be posted each Friday in April at WLRN.org. Finalists will be announced on April 23 and will be invited to read their poems at an event on April 30.

For a complete list of projects and events, visit www.omiami.org.


Miami, get your best words ready. Poetry is about to bloom again, in the park, on the wall, in the photo booth, at the bar — and other unexpected places.

April marks the start of the O, Miami Poetry Festival, which means a whole lot of people will be trying hard to make you encounter a poem as you go about your day (or night). It may come in the form of a lottery ticket or a selfie. One way or another, you will participate.

Sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and in its third year, the festival is now an annual event, which organizers hope will help it grow.

“Obviously it’s more work,” says founder P. Scott Cunningham, who’s also the creator of the nonprofit arts organization University of Wynwood. “But we realized for it to be something people look forward to on the cultural calender, it had to happen every year. ... Just to establish poetry as one of the things people are thinking about in Miami is a big step.”

And think about it you will. You have no choice. There’s no escaping the diabolical reach of O, Miami, which has flown lines of poetry over the beach, sewn poems into thrift-store clothing and asked people stuck in line at the DMV to read poetry on camera.

This year, José Martí — not the real one, though that would be amazing — will ride down Calle Ocho on a white horse distributing roses and poems. The Edgewater Poetry & Athletics Club, a two-story house on Biscayne Boulevard, will act as a hub for literary gatherings, readings, yoga, meditation, pick-up basketball and zine fairs. A literary pub crawl will begin at The Betsy Hotel and wind through the streets of South Beach to Club Deuce. Designated drivers are a good idea.

Alcohol is a minor theme; Charles Bukowski would approve. As part of this year’s Poet-in-Residence program, Gramp’s Bar in Wynwood will host 30 one-day residencies in which Miami poets get the last stool at the end of the bar, where they can perch, ruminate and write poems on cocktail napkins. For each poem, the writer gets a beer (designated drivers aren’t a bad idea here, either). The public is welcome — encouraged, even — to interact.

“It’s another way of breaking down that fourth wall between poets and the world,” Cunningham says.

For Poetry in the Park, the festival partners with New World Symphony and the city of Miami Beach for a free, live poetry reading in Soundscape Park. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass and National Book Award-winner Nikky Finney will be projected reading their works at the first poetry Wallcast. There will also be music, games and other performances.

Perhaps watching poets read aloud will inspire audiences to try Poetry Karaoke, created by Annik Adey-Babinski, a Florida International University student. At Poetry Karaoke, ambitious fans can read works by popular authors — among them Shakespeare, Pablo Neruda, Shel Silverstein, Denise Duhamel and Richard Blanco — with the words projected on a screen for them, just like in karaoke.

“My goal is to help people who don’t read poetry feel more comfortable reading poetry,” says Adey-Babinski. “I feel like poetry has been marginalized in the general culture. It’s something that’s thought of as elitist or ivory tower. This is an important way of showing people there’s a lot of spirit and joy in poetry. It’s not just for someone studying for a PhD.”

That concept of poetry-for-the-people will continue at SPEAKtacular, at which young poets from the Jason Taylor Foundation’s Omari Hardwick bluapplePoetry Network will perform amid musicians, dancers and visual artists, everyone creating together.

The performance showcases the idea of community in the arts, says Darius Daughtry, who organized SPEAKtacular with Ashley M. Jones. (Both are — you guessed it — poets.)

“O, Miami helps bring this work of the people back to the people that it’s made for,” Daughtry says. “We’re taking it away from academia and putting it in our students’ hands and giving them a voice to show that yeah, this is something that matters to us.”

So yes. In a community where the arts are blooming like roses (which are red) and violets (which are blue), O, Miami is eager to engage the populace. But it also has another goal in mind: establishing new grounds for putting Miami on the cultural map.

“It’s one piece of making Miami a culturally viable place in our eyes but also in the eyes of everyone else,” says Willie Avendano, an artist and programmer who created “Self-itry,” a D.I.Y. photo booth you may see around town that takes your picture and spits it out with a poem superimposed on it, based on questions you answer Buzzfeed-style. “I grew up here and lived in New York for five years. When I came back, it was a different place. ... It’s inspiring to see all these different opportunities, different foundations supporting the betterment of culture. It’s exciting.”

Hopefully, the festival “becomes commonplace, like ‘The book fair’s coming up’ or ‘Art Basel is coming up,’ ” Cunningham says. “That’s the first step, and we’re doing that. I think we’ve done things that successfully reach people who aren’t going to PAMM or the Arsht Center, people outside that cultural life. When the festival’s doing that on a regular basis, that’s when I’m going to feel excited.”

Read more Books stories from the Miami Herald

 <span class="cutline_leadin">STONE MATTRESS: </span>Nine Tales. Margaret Atwood. Nan A. Talese. Doubleday. 288 pages. $25.95.


    Past looms large in new stories from Margaret Atwood

    In Margaret Atwood’s new collection, the past looms large for aging protagonists, but sympathy and regret abound, too.

  • What are you reading now?

    “I just finished Claire DeWitt and The City of the Dead by Sara Gran, which I love, love, loved. It’s a mystery set in New Orleans shortly after the storm and solved by girl detective, Claire DeWitt, who applies her special method of detection which is pretty much based on yoga and Buddhism combined with the altered mind states of drugs, drink, dreams and growing up in Brooklyn.”

 <span class="cutline_leadin">WHAT STAYS IN VEGAS:</span> The World of Personal Data — Lifeblood of Big Business C — and the End of Privacy as We Know It. Adam Tanner. PublicAffairs. 316 pages. $27.99.


    ‘What Stays in Vegas’ examines data packaging and the end of privacy

    Journalist explains how data packaging makes American companies the biggest threat to privacy.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category