The founder of Coral Gables, George Merrick, was talented in many ways. Best known for shaping the city, Merrick was also a gifted poet whose dreams of becoming a full-time writer did not diminish with age.
Merrick’s love for the written word began as a young man. During the four-hour journey by wagon to sell fruit from his family’s orchard, he would pass the time reading literature and poetry.
When he enrolled in Rollins College in 1907, Merrick had a go at writing his own pieces. During his college days, he had several short stories published, including one that won a contest.
Throughout the rest of his life, Merrick wrote numerous poems about topics such as his love affair with his wife, Eunice, and the natural beauty of Florida. He even had a book of poetry titled Song of the Wild on a Southern Shore published in 1920.
To commemorate Merrick’s 1920 anthology and love of poetry, the Merrick House will host a poetry event Sunday afternoon.
“He was an extraordinarily learned man,” said Patricia Clarke, the event’s co-chair. “George was a romantic and poet, so we wanted to dedicate the afternoon to that side of him.”
The event, called “Patchwork of Poetry,” coincides with National Poetry Month and is free to the public.
The celebration will be the last event in a series of seven hosted by the city of Coral Gables and the Merrick House Governing Board. The monthly series, “Sundays on the Porch with George,” has showcased the Merrick House and gardens at 907 Coral Way.
Merrick’s own work will be used to kick off the celebration Sunday. David Arisco, the Coral Gables Actor’s Playhouse artistic director, will read Merrick’s poem When the Groves Begin to Bear.
Local poet Cathy Blackburn will be on hand to share her own poetry, as well as her process and advice.
To involve younger Coral Gables residents, the Merrick House ran a poetry contest for local fifth-grade students. All submissions will be displayed on a clothesline along the veranda of the house.
The winning students will present their work in front of the audience and will receive gift certificates from Books & Books.
“This is going to be a lifelong memory for these students,” Clarke said. “It is a family-oriented event, so we wanted to have the students come up on stage to share their poems.”
Guests can also enjoy the Miami-Dade County Bookmobile, which will be parked on the front lawn of the house. Food trucks will be available, as well.
In addition, tours of the main house will be offered for a nominal fee, which will go toward the restoration and upkeep of the home.
As the final event of the series, the Merrick House Governing Board anticipates that “Patchwork of Poetry” will be the biggest yet.
“Throughout the series, we have been gaining momentum,” board spokeswoman Anna-Louise Fulks said. “We have brought out so many people who never knew this historic house was here or how much history there is here.”
The Merrick House Governing Board hopes to begin the series again in the fall.