Poet and promoter of poetic life once broadcast poems by bullhorn while riding on Ocean Drive.
Occupation: Founder/director of O, Miami poetry festival and Jai-Alai Books
Family status: Newlywed
Lives in: Miami
P. Scott Cunningham is South Florida’s P.T. Barnum of poetry, says Knight Foundation CEO Alberto Ibargüen. Not since Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society has there been such a passionate champion of poetry and its place in the modern world.
Cunningham created the non-accredited University of Wynwood in 2008 to bring poetry to the masses of Miami. That spawned O, Miami, the annual poetry festival produced in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Cunningham also provides poets and other authors and artists the opportunity to publish, through Jai-Alai Books and Jai-Alai Magazine.
His philosophy is “to always make things beautiful.” He is both a poet and promoter of the poetic life, prompting his followers to use urban guerrilla tactics — replacing labels with poems in thrift store clothes, putting poems rather than parking tickets under windshield wipers, covering drink coasters with poetry, and even broadcasting poems by bullhorn while riding in a red Lamborghini on Ocean Drive
Cunningham studied theology at Wesleyan University and then obtained a master’s degree in creative writing from Florida International University. Born in Boca Raton, he has embraced Miami since moving here in 2005. He wears his allegiance to Miami on his left forearm in the form of a tattoo taken from the opening line of a poem by Miami-born Donald Justice: “I will die in Miami in the sun.”
From Cunningham: “The impetus behind Jai-Alai Books was to make books that came from Miami. A lot of my favorite presses and record labels speak to and from the cities where they originated, and Miami has so much to offer in terms of culture. So much is happening here right now, and the book is the best form, I think, for processing those experiences, and offering up new ones.”
About Cunningham: “He is a leader who I can honestly characterize in the same way Waldo [Ralph Waldo Emerson] describes Walt [Whitman], self-reliant, large hearted, benevolent and entirely patriotic (about Miami).” — Melody Santiago Cummings, (no relation), operations manager for O, Miami, Jai-Alai Books and the University of Wynwood