Miami is generally considered a city of beaches, clubs, and parties: a city that has inspired catchy and famous songs such as Will Smith’s 90s classic, Miami. And while that side of the city is well-known, Miami is also a flourishing literary city with a plethora of book readings and events. We host one of the finest literary festivals in the country, the Miami Book Fair International, and we have a fun festival dedicated to National Poetry Month: It’s known as O, Miami.
According to its website, “the mission of the annual O, Miami Poetry Festival is for every single person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem. Since its founding in 2011, the festival has hosted performances by Anne Carson, Raúl Zurita, W.S. Merwin, Patti Smith, Richard Blanco, Tracy K. Smith, Thurston Moore, Kevin Young, and many others.”
O, Miami’s events, workshops, and projects are creative collaborations inspired and created by Miami residents and poets. People can encounter poems while pumping gas, drinking beer in bars, standing on a rooftop, or flying in an airplane. They can find poems hidden in seashells on Miami Beach, in Miami prisons, on robot receipts, in barbershops, on school buses, on horses, on billboards, and almost everywhere you can imagine. The festival’s purpose is to celebrate Miami in all its glory: “Our assumption is that Miami is always more poetic, more beautiful, more intelligent, more joyful, and more empathetic than we give it credit for. Year after year at O, Miami, that assumption proves true.”
If there’s a fun way to mix poetry with people, you can be sure O, Miami poets have thought of it or are thinking of it. In the past decade, O, Miami made a vinyl record in Little Haiti with Tracy K. Smith, did a photoshoot with Ross Gay at JC Penney, and did a reading featuring James Franco. Read below for an overview of this year’s festival and the unique events waiting for you.
The COVID-19 crisis has moved all O, Miami events to its website. While this is sad news for people who wanted to experience the events in-person, on the bright side, having the events online means that anyone in the world can experience how awesome O, Miami is and meet authors they admire without having to travel or leave their homes. We have to look at the silver lining, and there is definitely one for O, Miami. (As a side bonus, all introverts who don’t like to socialize at these events can now enjoy the festival from the comfort of their bedrooms.)
Here are some highlights of the festival anyone can attend using Zoom. There are many free online readings, and for the paid events and workshops, fees are on a sliding scale and range from five to 15 dollars: You pay what you can afford.
Listed on O, Miami’s website, here is the description for this five-dollar workshop: “Poetry is about connection. For this online writing workshop, participants sign up as a pair. Bring your parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt or uncle, cousin, or another family member, blood or chosen.
Together, we’ll explore and create diverse poems about family while paying attention to poetic choices. Participants can expect to read and discuss a few poems together before writing one of their own, either in collaboration with their family partner, or to be shared with their family partner. Bring an openness to lean in, create, laugh and learn something new about each other. No experience needed. For ages 16+.”
This is a free online workshop, and according to O, Miami’s website, you can “join Free Plastic, Inc. in a making challenge to source and process materials to create letters out of reuse—then stay for a creative writing workshop where your work might be selected as the next poem to be featured in the greater Miami community.
Poet and instructor Caroline Cabrera will lead participants in a place-based metaphor workshop focused on Miami and our environment.”
According to O, Miami’s website, “Audre Lorde described herself as a ‘Black lesbian mother warrior poet.’ The word survival comes up frequently in the writings of Audre Lorde. Survival was a methodology for Lorde. As we make our way through this global pandemic, it is the perfect time to reacquaint ourselves with the teachings of Audre Lorde.
This workshop will be centered on Audre Lorde’s book, The Cancer Journals. Through various writing prompts we will think and write about our survival and take seriously that survival is not just an individual act, but it is also an elaborate group project. Let’s meditate on our collective survival together in the spirit of Lorde.”
Listed on O, Miami’s website as a free reading, “three major contemporary poets read the poems that have influenced them, as well as their own poems that exhibit that influence.”
WHY MIAMI IS STILL SPECIAL
Despite sea levels rising, our terrible transportation system, and the high cost of living, I still love Miami, and the best thing about this city is the melting pot of cultures reflected in the list of authors attending the festival. I’m proud to live in a place where poetry matters, and that’s just one reason why I still call Miami my home.