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An ode to your ZIP code kicks off O, Miami’s poetry festival

MIAMI HERALD STAFF

In merely 20 words, Beatriz Fernandez romanticized her West Kendall neighborhood in a poem.

To the west of her Lakes of the Meadows community are “palatial prairies”— the Everglades. To the east, a “fruity palace of men’s palates”— El Palacio de los Jugos, the popular Cuban restaurant.

Fernandez wrote her poem for ZIP Odes, a collaboration between WLRN and O, Miami, the poetry festival now in its fourth year.

The poem’s form is simple: A Haiku-like poem built around your ZIP code. The number of words per line and the number of lines in the poem (five) are dictated by the five numbers in your ZIP code.

For example, 33185 is the ZIP code for Lakes of the Meadows, a community around Bird Road and SW 152nd Avenue. Therefore, the first line of the poem will contain three words, matching the 3 in the ZIP code. The second line, three words. The third line, one word. The fourth line, eight words. And the fifth line, five words. ZIP codes that contain a zero can be designated with a blank space or a symbol.

P. Scott Cunningham, the founder of O, Miami, and Melody Santiago Cummings, the festival’s manager of operations, figure it will be interesting to see which ZIP codes are the most poetic.

“It’s fun to take something that is scientific and devoid of romance and turn it into form and play with it,” said Cunningham, whose goal with O, Miami is to introduce everyone in Miami-Dade County with a poem in April.

The idea for the contest bubbled up when the O, Miami staff was reviewing which areas within the county were the most and least poetry prolific during last year’s month-long festival. The ZIP codes that were the most prolific last year were: 33134 (Coral Gables), 33137 (Morningside), 33138 (Belle Meade and Miami Shores) and 33139 (South Beach).

“We’re eager to connect more with Doral, West Kendall, Sweetwater, Homestead and Opa-locka,” Cummings said.

After all, the goal of O, Miami is to connect as many South Florida residents as possible to poetry during April, which is National Poetry Month.

Alicia Zuckerman, editorial director of WLRN, says the contest speaks to what WLRN tries to do, that is, tell stories about South Florida.

“We have such a big region that we cover and it’s easy to not know what’s going on the next county over or even the next street over,” Zuckerman said. “This is kind of a little window into other people’s lives and that’s interesting from an entertainment perspective but also on a deeper level as well.”

Unlike previous years, when the O, Miami/WLRN poetry contests were more focused on Miami-Dade County, ZIP Odes taps into to all of WLRN’s listeners, from West Palm Beach to Key West.

WLRN will post 10 poems each week on its website, until the contest closes April 21.

A closing ceremony will be held April 29 at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Coconut Grove. The 20 finalists will be invited to read their work. Richard Blanco, the poet who delivered the poem during President Obama’s 2012 inauguration, will choose the five winners. Blanco will select the winners before the event; he will not be present.

Follow @kathdevaney on Twitter.

If you go

To submit a ZIP Ode, go to http://www.omiami.org/participate/ and click on the “Ode to the Code” section under “Submit Your Poems.” The contest closes on April 21.

The winners will read their poetry at ‘Inside Vizcaya: Zip Odes with O, Miami Poetry.’ The event will be from 7 to 9 p.m. April 29, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, 3251 S. Miami Ave.

Tickets can be purchased at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/inside-vizcaya-zip-odes-with-o-miami-poetry-tickets-15089604413

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