Poetry has jumped off the page and into the streets of Miami this month through the numerous events hosted as part of the O, Miami Poetry Festival.
Festival organizers have joined forces with local creative types in attempts to bring a poem to every single person in Miami-Dade County.
And they’ve covered a lot of ground. Whether it be at local watering holes or on the beach, poetry has been around town everywhere in the name of national poetry month.
While April may be nearing its end, the celebration is far from over. O, Miami Poetry Festival, in its third year, will continue to host events through next week that are anything but traditional for a poetry festival.
Miami artist Christina Pettersson became committed to finding a different way to introduce poetry to others after she learned of the festival’s mission. As a poetry lover, she knew she wanted to help Miami enjoy verse.
“I think poetry is an extremely accessible art, but it has been pigeonholed into something intellectual and obtuse,” Pettersson said. “There is a wonderful playful quality to it and you can carry it around in your head.”
At her art show opening last weekend at Primary Projects gallery, Pettersson set up a desk where guests could sit and read books of poetry. As part of a project titled “Anonymous Letters,” she asked them to copy a poem by hand onto stationary and send it to someone chosen from an address book.
“It is nice because it has also given people the chance to slow down and meander through the poems and enjoy them,” she said.
Pettersson says the poetry station will remain at the Miami gallery for the next two months for those who want to come by and introduce a favorite poem of theirs to another Miamian.
For some of the other O, Miami events, the projects have incorporated technology to bring a new twist to a centuries-old art form.
New media artist Matt Roberts and poet Terri Witek teamed up to create a phone app to turn Miami into an augmented reality full of dreams appearing in different metropolitan destinations.
“We thought it would be interesting to think about a city like Miami as a place where people have dreams that sort of stay there and the people who visit can see them still there,” Witek said. “We wanted to make a map of all of the dreams.”
The dream map, which can be found on the free phone app Layar, includes venues where there are O, Miami events. There, they can scan a barcode and hold up their phone in front of the scene. The image of a “dreamer” will float across their phone screen with the same landscape as the backdrop. The “dreamer,” which is a memento mori figure, will be accompanied by a short poem read and authored by Witek.
Witek and Roberts, both Stetson University professors, also ask the public for submissions of 7-word poems.
“Dreaming is such private thing, but when you put it in this seven-word form it becomes easier to share,” Witek said.
Witek posts the different poems daily on the project Facebook page, and has noticed a trend of Miami inspired dreams.
“It has been really enjoyable to weave the dreams into the city,” Witek said.
Another project in line with the festival’s mission is “Home: Beyond Geography.” Created by interdisciplinary artists Leila Leder Kremer and Juana Meneses, they gone from neighborhood to neighborhood to get local residents to tell their stories.
As they travel to neighborhoods like Little Haiti and Homestead, the two come equipped with index cards for residents to fill out and a “zine” from the last neighborhood they visited. In the short zine, they compile some of the stories from the previous neighborhood to share with the residents.
“We thought about how segregated the different neighborhoods in Miami can be and wanted to start a dialogue between them, said Leder Kremer. “We wanted to see what home means to them, Miami means to them and how these neighborhoods connect.”
The pair is interested in how people came to call Miami home since both are immigrants who arrived in Miami as teenagers. Leder Kremer is from Argentina and Meneses is from Colombia.
On the index cards, they have included different maps — of the world, the United States and Miami — and ask participants to trace their journey from each.
Since launching the project this month, the pair has spoken to people of all walks of life. They have met people young and old, homeless and illiterate.
“The personal contact we have had with people is very powerful and it is beyond what we expected,” said Leder Kremer.
Until the end of the month, the pair can be found at their booth at different locations all over Miami, which are listed on their website. Those who wish to share their story can do so online at the site as well at beyondgeography.tumblr.com.
At the end of the project, they plan to compile a book of the different stories and include photographs from their experiences.
As far as the venues for a poetry festival go, Gramps Bar may be among the most unconventional of the group. The Wynwood bar has hosted a residency for a different poet each night this month.
From the last stool at the bar, the poets scribble down a booze-inspired verse on cocktail napkins. For each napkin, the poet receives a complimentary beer. At the end of the month, Gramps plan to create a zine of all of the poems.
Gramps, at 176 NW 24th St., will also be host to the festival’s closing party at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
And if guests haven’t realized by now that this is not the average poetry festival, they will when welcomed with a dirty limerick competition to end things in O, Miami fashion.
It is a fitting ending to a poetry celebration with a diverse offering of events. To make sure the festival does not pass you by, visit www.omiami.org for more information.