O, Miami: A Month of Verse In Our Paradise of the Perverse
For those who pay any attention, who take care to look a bit further than the glossy pamphlet veneer, there's a great deal more to what makes Miami the Magic City than strung-out nights under neon on South Beach, and half-naked candy kids marching down Biscayne like a horde of zombies. This town is beautiful and blunt and brutal, it's surreal and sublime and stupid, it's decadent and depraved and ceaselessly, wonderfully different.
Courtesy of O, Miami
The more you think about how inspiring it can be, in all its chaos and magnificence and degeneracy, it makes one wonder why Miamians hasn't got more of a penchant for poetry when there's so much here to put to pen.
Fortunately, for one month of the year, Miami is saturated with verse upon the arrival of the O, Miami Poetry Festival. Since 2011, the month of April has been made into a citywide celebration of all things poetic, with an array of events ranging from readings and recitations by brilliant writers, to parades celebrating the life and death of poetry and the poets who've practiced it. This time around, the docket of events and projects makes it pretty apparent that 2014 will be the festival's most interesting year yet.
"We typically do our biggest event at the end of the month and we're doing it at the beginning of the month this year," noted P. Scott Cunningham, founder and director of O, Miami. "It's on April 5th at Soundscape Park at the New World Symphony, and it's the first time anyone's done a poetry wallcast, in the same way the City of Miami Beach shows movies on the wall and the symphony does their wallcasts of their concerts. We have two of the biggest poets in the United States reading, and it's going to have the same in-depth, multiple camera angle production-level feel that you get with the New World Symphony, but with poetry."
When Cunningham says "two of the biggest poets in the United States," it is a statement wholly devoid of exaggeration. The two poets in question are Robert Hass and Kay Ryan - both of whom are former Poet Laureates of the United States. For those unfamiliar with the significance of being named the nation's official poet, other former laureates include Robert Penn Warren, William Carlos Williams, Robert Frost, Rita Dove, and Maya Angelou.
If not one but two Poet Laureates weren't enough, there will also be a reading by National Book Award Winner, Nikky Finney. Put quite simply, if you can make your way to Soundscape Park on April 5th, you are going to hear some extraordinarily talented writers filling the grounds with some incredibly lovely words, and you will not be disappointed.
The month-long festival will pepper the whole metropolis with poetic celebrations big and small, and some promise to be pretty damn colorful. On a yet-to-be-decided day in April, actor Ivan Lopez will ride a white horse down Calle Ocho dressed as Jose Martí and hand out roses with poems penned by the famed Cuban poet and national hero. Imagine, if you will, the joy of seeing a man dressed in a fine black suit and sporting a well-kept mustache ambling along Calle Ocho on a white steed, handing you a rose and a poem before he continues to ride deeper into heart of Little Havana.