The minds behind O, Miami

My first encounter with the O, Miami poetry festival was an emotional rollercoaster. It must have been almost three years ago. I was returning to my parked car, when I noticed bright orange envelope on the windshield. I approached with frustration and self-doubt. “How could this happen? I’m sure I paid the meter,” I frantically thought.

As I edged toward my unwarranted punishment, my anger slowly turned into giddy elation. I was duped. It wasn’t a ticket at all, it was a poem.

It was O, Miami, our month-long poetry festival that tries to ensure everyone in Miami-Dade County encounters poetry in April. And it seems to be working! Friends of mine have bumped into poems in equally sneaky ways. Stuck to a popsicle. On a street sign. Manicured on someone’s nails. And my all time favorite: On the inside of a urinal … a murinal.

As the festival approached this year I wanted to be prepared — and to prepare all of you for the poetry barrage you’ll encounter, often cleverly disguised. Here, a few of these poetry bandits share their projects and the poems that inspire them.

Rising Waters Poetry Flotilla by Mario Alejandro Ariza

A floating parade/climate protest/poetry reading, the Rising Waters Poetry Flotilla will wind its way up the Coral Gables Waterway, stopping twice to interact with musicians, writers, onlookers and landlubbers, share poetry, and raise awareness about Miami’s perilous future. Think Waterworld. Think Mad Max on Miami’s Canals. Kevin Costner may or may not be in attendance.

A verse that inspires me:

I met History once, but he ain’t recognize me.

–  The Schooner Flightby Derek Walcott

Poetry Today by Sandra March

Poetry Today is a daily newspaper that reverses Miami’s culture flow. It features original poems from 20 different neighborhoods and is delivered on weekdays in April to homes in West Kendall. Each issue profiles one neighborhood, with a “poetry centerfold” and a profile of the neighborhood’s facts and flora. Papers will be also available at select O, Miami events.

A verse that inspires me:

“És quan dormo que hi veig clar
Foll d’una dolça metzina,
Amb perles a cada mà
Visc al cor d’una petxina.”

(“When I sleep, then I see clearly
Crazed by a sweet poison
With pearls in both hands
I live in a seashell’s heart”.
Translation by David H. Rosenthal)

“És quan dormo que hi veig clar” (“When I sleep, then I see clearly”) By Josep Vicenç Foix, a Catalan poet. 

Fortune Cookie Poems by Benjy Caplan and Delivery Dudes Midtown

We’re distributing Miami-fied Frank O’Hara poems to the denizens of Midtown, Edgewater, Wynwood, Aventura, Coconut Grove, and Coral Gables. It started because Delivery Dudes, our delivery service, wanted to deliver a poem to every one of our customers who orders in April and Benjy Caplan had an awesome idea to put Frank O’Hara inspired poems into fortune cookies.The original poem is a collection of 29 little mysteries but also builds a narrative out of what the speaker wishes for himself. Finding all 29 lines in Miami couldn’t be any harder than McDonald’s Monopoly but will definitely be a whole lot better for your health and mental hygiene. Plus, the cookies we used are vegan. (We think.) We teamed up and are spreading the gospel of good poetry to the hungry folk of Miami.

A verse that inspires me:

Evan Marcus, Delivery Dudes:

this morning
I stood once again
in this world, the garden
ark and vacant
tomb of what
I can’t imagine,
between twin eternities,
some sort of wings,
more or less equidistantly
exiled from both,
hovering in the dreaming called
being awake, where
You gave me
in secret one thing
to perceive, the
tall blue starry

strangeness of being
here at all.

The Only AnimalBy Franz Wright

Benjy Caplan:

we sit up straight

eyes red-rimmed
after a spanking
in the restroom
of the Shangri-La
Chinese restaurant

Juárez 1966

whenever he tells this
Dad says pitiful

and he felt bad

“Each and Her” by Valerie Martinez

Bedside Meter by Quinn Smith

We visit patients in long term rehab, talk to them, and use their words to create poems. We are doing this to bring a special moment to their stay that they can both create and control.

A verse that inspires me:

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look my works ye mighty and despair!’

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Rolling by the Beach on a Sunny Evening by JointStudios, Juan Gelez, and Delia Rivera

Using a device made out of reclaimed wood and a few metal components, JointStudio will roll poetry imprints directly into Miami’s sandy shores. The art is found in the symbiosis relationship between user, roller and sand coming together in harmony, delivering poetry to those who have minimal contact with the art. It is ephemeral and transitory — existing only briefly before the waves take the poem into the Atlantic.

A verse that inspires me:

I’m not into poetry much, so I think this project is helping me open my mind a bit while also helping others learn more about the art. I don’t remember where this verse comes from but I read it once and it just stuck: “The things I do with my companion solitude.”