“O,” is a direct address of the beloved. “Miami” is our beloved.
The mission of the annual O, Miami Poetry Festival is for every single person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem.
Each festival begins on April 1 and runs until April 30. During that month, we work side-by-side with Miamians to bring poetry to the forefront of civic life, co-producing, on average, 41 events and 23 projects. Here are three examples of the kinds of things we do:
Poems to the Sky
Poems by 3rd and 4th graders painted on the rooftops of buildings in the flight path of Miami International Airport, creating a reading experience from the sky.
Changing the Google search terms for “Miami Inmate” so that the autocorrect results display short poems by actual Miami inmates.
Haircut for a Poem
Read a poem & get a free haircut. Patrons of barbershops in Overtown and Little Haiti read Calvin Hernton’s “The Distant Drum” and got a hair cut for free.
O, Miami Poetry Festival began in 2011, inspired by a series of “Random Acts of Culture” our sponsor, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, was doing at the time as part of their philosophy of “making art general.” (Hat tip to James Joyce.)
When we started the festival, we thought we needed to “deliver” poems to Miami. We were wrong. The poems were already there.
In 2013, we met a woman at El Palacio de los Jugos who could not read or write but nevertheless wrote poems in her head and recited them for friends and families. It was then that we realized our job was not to deliver the poetry, but to find it, and once we’d found it, to give it a megaphone and rebroadcast it back to the city. In other words, to celebrate Miami, the actual Miami.
We believe this process of uncovering poetry is also the process of attacking inequality, as one of the roots of inequality is an inability of the people in power to see the worth in the communities around them, and we hope our projects enact that belief.
Our baseline assumption is that Miami, despite its challenges, is always more poetic, more beautiful, more intelligent, more joyful, and more empathetic than even we give it credit for. Year after year at O, Miami, that assumption has been proven true.
Using a hidden bluetooth speaker inside a 3-D shell, we brought poems to beachgoers who stumbled across the shell and put it to their ears.
Wheels and Words
Twelve poems, written by Miami elementary school students, on the side of a county bus. It’s the only yellow bus in the fleet - keep an eye out for it.
The Last Ride of José Martí
The legendary Cuban poet and revolutionary, reborn, riding down Calle Ocho on a white horse and reciting his beloved Versos sencillos.
The festival runs on an ecosystem of participation and engagement from Miamians.
We collect poems from Miamians all year long. Each fall, we ask for event and project ideas from the general public. We select as many of these ideas as we can, enlisting Miamians as co-creators of the festival. Then we incorporate the Miami poems we’ve collected into the festival events and projects, broadcasting Miami poems back into Miami.
In the process, we hope to:
For more about how we accomplish these goal through individual programs, see:
Knight Writers (Coming soon)