Miami Stories

South Florida poets to be showcased at upcoming 2016 Miami Book Fair

The 2015 Miami Book Fair International at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.
The 2015 Miami Book Fair International at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus in downtown Miami.

You never have to wait until National Poetry Month to find great poetry in Miami. In fact, you only have to wait until the 2016 Miami Book Fair, Nov. 13-20, to see our magic city’s local poets in action. While you wait for November to roll in, enjoy this taste of the smart, sensorial poems being written in your own backyard.


MacArthur Foundation fellow Campbell McGrath has written poems about Florida since he arrived; in his latest book of 100 poems, “XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century,” he turns an eye toward the global. With typewriters, bread and Olympian gods marching alongside ants and page margins, “Epilogue: 2016” reminds readers that the universe is bound through time and space, Miami included.

Epilogue: 2016

Like prose does the term of our days extend

to the margin of the page

but it does not return, with a slap and a clang,

in the manner of an old typewriter carriage,

elementary mechanism

of spring-bearing levers and bird-claw glyphs.

Already I have journeyed more than a decade

into this pathless new millennium,

weary explorer who will never reach the pole.

Friends travel beside me, traipsing ahead,

falling by the wayside in the obdurate whiteness

from which all things of purpose have been carved away,

all things parsed and compassed by the wind.

Children follow in our tracks, assuming,

each time we look back, the aspect of strangers;

they exceed us as Olympian gods surpassed the Greeks

who fashioned them in their,

and thus our own, entirely mortal image.

And the illustrious, hard-frozen ocean receding

further into memory with each embattled step,

great whales feeding in the darkness,

their souls like wells of fragrant oil,

the exodus-light of icebergs made plastic

and manifest, that index, that sign.

To the margin but no more.

Like dough which rises to fill the baker’s pan

with a scent of yeast and distant wheat fields,

leaving nothing in its aftermath

but a ruin of crusts, a scattering of crumbs,

avenues for the triumphal procession of the ants.

— Campbell McGrath, “XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century”

Campbell McGrath will appear 5 to 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at Chapman Conference Center (Building 3, Second Floor, Room 3210), 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.


By contrast, Cuban American writer Carlos Pintado’s poem, which is from his manuscript, “Nine Coins / Nueve monedas,” winner of the National Poetry Series’ Paz Poetry Prize for a book of poems written in Spanish and published as a bilingual translation, unfurls a single moment of desire at a Books & Books table on Lincoln Road.

Books & Books, Lincoln Road

The image is other, it suffers. The season changing no sooner than

it’s noticed. I was reading Paul Auster’s Invisible when you came

around: there I was, seated, and the books, so many books, the smell

of paper and ink and not much else. There I was, between Rudolph

Born, Adam Walker, and the girl, like some absurd witness passing

through. Page after page, I kept thinking of impulse, of its desire,

that stuff things are made of. Invisible and I, just the two of us; then

you came in. Desire returns. Invisible. Invisible. I read a few words

but the image returns: you, going from book to book, skimming

your fingers across the glossy covers, the paper that contains a whole

world in another language. At some point, Born implies that the boy

should be with his lover, with Born’s lover. I want to be in the world

of the book, to be another character, to tell Born that the boy can

be with his lover, with the French girl. It is not cycles of love, but of

desire. Everything happens like in the book, but in the end, here we

are, he and I, regarding ourselves slowly, without language. I think

on the limits of devastation, of the rain that falls outside, of the little

words the boy speaks without my understanding; I see his fair skin,

his eyes meet mine in the empty air. There is no triumph, and there

won’t be. It’s an image, nothing more, I tell myself. Before he left, his

eyes came to rest on me again. It was futility that I felt, the idea of

belonging only to a moment’s memory, the absence of everything,

and of words.

— Carlos Pintado, “Nine Coins/Nueve monedas”

Carlos Pintado will appear 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 19 at Room 6100 (Building 6, First Floor), 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.


Sandra M. Castillo’s version of Miami is a little more nostalgic as she invites readers of her collection, “Eating Moors and Christians,” to sit and eat pizza with her family in East Hialeah as exiles after the Cuban Revolution.


I sit in East Hialeah,

a white, leather-top stool at Mr. Bee’s Pizza,

a leftover outdoor ‘50s soda shop

just off Palm Avenue.

These are out days with Father,

and this is his favorite spot.

Mabel and Mitzy shift their weight

to their feet, push into a spin.

Father lets them, so does Mr. Bee,

and we drink 10-ounce bottles

of Coca-Cola with our slices

while Father and Mr. Bee try

to understand each other’s language.

It is our first year in Miami.

Mother works days, Father nights,

and in that small, one-bedroom apartment

Tía Estela rented for us a year before we arrived,

we watch American cartoons—

Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry—

run around the orange trees in the backyard,

think the world is 310 East 10th Street,

walks to and from El Caibarién,

Coca-Cola, a slice

of pizza.

— Sandra M. Castillo, “Eating Moors and Christians”

Sandra M. Castillo will appear 1 to 2 p.m. Nov. 19 at Room 6100 (Building 6, First Floor), 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.


This sense of displacement and origin serves as the inspiration for the much more recent transplant, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello, winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry for “Hour of the Ox.” Her poem, commissioned for a Boston poetry takeover project, asks what it takes to be a local poet in Miami.

Buenos días, Miami

Everything here is from somewhere else: the coffee, the milk, the woman bending over her lunch; the fresh-cut gold of mango running between her fingers; even the ocean gathering itself and its children from the streets paved with palm fronds and heat. The turtles are not from here; the manatees, the alligators, even the heat is from somewhere else: Puerto Rico, Haiti, Ohio. Dwayne Wade is from somewhere else; Dwayne Johnson, Celia Cruz, Romero Britto. Pitbull was from here, with his 305 anthem, and then he wasn’t. Carl Hiaasen wasn’t. Andy García wasn’t. I wasn’t. And suddenly I was. Now, it seems, I am part of this nation of heat that drives down into the lungs of this magic city every day, storm-sky in the rearview, I ♥ Café Bustelo cortadito sweet with sugarcane steady in the cup-holder of a car I drove down from New York. Here, every morning I shake my head to the man selling limes or guavas or roses beneath the red traffic light. Every afternoon I walk to a little café window for empanadas, one carne, one ham, practicing the rollout of r’s in a language meant for somewhere else. Every night I drive back out of the throat of this city, where even the walls say adios, as if they know I’m not from here, as if they know I am already halfway gone.

— Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello. This poem was originally commissioned for 92Y’s “Words We Live In.”

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello will appear 2 to 3 p.m. Nov. 20 at Room 6100 (Building 6, First Floor), 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.

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