Look down when you fly in and out of Miami

Added on by Scott Cunningham.

Artist Randy Burman came to us a couple of years ago with the question, "What if you looked down from the window seat of an airplane and saw a poem?"

His vision is now a reality.

"Poems to the Sky" painted two poems into rooftops in Miami during April 2016: one on the roof of MANA Wynwood, and one on the roof of a parking garage at Florida International University.

Each poem has letters that are roughly 14 feet high and can easily be seen from incoming and departing planes at Miami International Airport. (Hint: the MANA location is most frequently seen from the right side of a plane taking off toward the Atlantic, while the FIU poem can be seen from the right side of planes arriving from the west.)

The MANA poem was written by Nieema Marshall, a 3rd grade student at Orchard Villa Elementary School, while the FIU poem was written by 4th grader Tywon Williams (also at Orchard Villa). The poems were created as part of The Sunroom, an O, Miami program that places poets-in-residence in various institutions around the city. 

Both poems were generously supported by The Children's Trust. The poem at FIU was adopted by students at FIU's Honors College, who did much of the work of painting the poem and even did the drone photography. The poem at MANA Wynwood was generously supported by MANA. Each poem was a highly collaborative effort.

What I personally love about the project is that it gives a publishing platform (and a rather large one at that) to two Miamians who are not "writers" or "poets" in a professional sense. O, Miami believes that a city's literature is only as good as how accurately it reflects the people who live there, and this project is about saying to visitors and locals alike, "There is creativity everywhere here."

-P. Scott 

102 Heartbeats

Added on by Melody Santiago.

O, Miami believes poetry has the power to lend people a voice after unspeakable events.

As we remember the victims of the attack at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fl on June 16, 2016 and support their friends and families, we offer you an opportunity for poetic expression.

The hope is that your poem, which will be archived on lnstagram at @102latidos, along with countless others, will help someone respond, process, or even heal.

In the tradition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, an icon of LGBTQ visibility, we also hope the archive will become a living document (both digital and material) open for contributions indefinitely.

To contribute, write a poem on a sheet fit for a square photo, post it on Instagram, and tag us at @102latidos.

One Geeky Field Day in West Kendall

Added on by Melody Santiago.

On Sunday, April 23 I was a little skeptical about how much fun would be had at the “Day of Thrones” Field Day Competition. From 11 AM to 4 PM, geeks would congregate at Hammocks Community Park, a co-presentation by O, Miami, The New Tropic, and Miami-Dade District 11 Commissioner Zapata.

Photos by Gesi Schilling and Zain Aslamb.

Photos by Gesi Schilling and Zain Aslamb.

I’m a poetry geek and I enjoy shows like the Big Bang, but I had never gone as far as communing at major centers like Comic-con, where geeks congregate in the thousands. But I put my faith in these organizations, and gathered my crew—Plato, my canine kin, and Sara, my Game of Thrones geek/visual artist cousin.

The location was convenient for West Kendall residents, who often have to commute inconvenient distances to experience cultural events.

When we got to the park, I felt like I hadn’t traveled via car but via time machine. The last time I had been to a field with bounce houses and people organized by primary colors was over a decade ago, in Elementary school.

P. Scott Cunningham, founder and director of O, Miami, introduced the event and then himself with the disclaimer “I will be your highly subjective judge for Shakespeare Recitations” (Later on, while judging, in a moment of Geek fervor, the statement became objective: “No doubt people, I am simply a vessel, a mouthpiece for the Gods”.) Throughout the day, he would double as referee and judge.

The four team captains introduced their teams in epic geek voices or in some cases they went further, like the team Blue Flames, who expressed their dominance with an epic strut by Captain Cammie, Carmen Pelaez. Her performance strongly reminded me of the dramatic strut by wrestler Ric Flair.

“Red Wedding” (which my geek informant cousin informed me was the title for one of the goriest episodes of Game of Thrones), “Blueflames,” “Summer is Coming,” who were wearing green, and “The Slayers,” who were wearing yellow, would be competing against each other in Kickball, Mathletics, Assemble a Poem, Shakespeare Recitations, and synchronized slip-n-slide.

Geek behavior like fear of fast-moving objects did not take away from the fun in events like Kickball. For example, when I asked Jacky Carcamo if she was standing in the outfield because she didn’t think the ball was going to make it past the red clay, she chuckled and said, “Yup. I’m trying to stay as far away from the ball as possible.” Still, she was all smiles and cheering for her team.

Throughout the event, DJ Hotpants and Lolo pumped out jams, remixing artists like Whitney Houston, Fatboy Slim, and Missy Elliot. A few of the braver geeks broke it down on the floor.  

As a lover of poetry, my favorite game was Shakespeare Recitations, where “Summer is Coming” won first place for their Miami Spanglish interpretation, “Ayyy, Romeo Romeo…deny thy papi…y si no puedes, be but sworn, mi amor, and I’ll no longer be a Capulete. What’s in a nombre…that which we call a bro? Romeo, bote ese nombre chico! And for that name, which is no part of thee, cojame toda que aqui estoy completa! Dale!”

What a joy, to see people of all ages come together for some geeky challenges. My earlier skepticism is gone. When can we do this again?

Farah Diba is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.

Poetry Press Week: Night Two

Added on by Melody Santiago.

The spirit of poetry as a community project left its mark last night on the wall of MANA Contemporary in bulging, denim-blue letters spelling out the tag “Miss you Reefa.” The tag lingered from the previous night of poetry showcasing, during Aja Monet’s piece “71st and Collins,” and alludes to the young Miami graffiti artist, Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, and his tragic death. Tonight, on the final night of Poetry Press Week, the writing on the wall and the sound loop of Reefa’s sister reading the lines “he drew flowers where they could not grow,” served as a prelude for the performances to come.

All photos by Gesi Schilling.

All photos by Gesi Schilling.

Five more artists--Laurel Nakanishi, Gregg Shapiro, Yaddyra Peralta, Denise Duhamel, and MJ Fievre--were all local poets. Each poet presented their poetry using their own touch to follow the event’s rules--the most important rule being that they were not allowed to participate in the performance of their own work. After that, anything goes. The performances ranged from traditional readings to mini theatrical productions.

Laurel Nakanishi’s poems engaged the community by using evocative footage capturing dancers from New World School of the Arts. For me, the dancing footage intensified the feeling of constant movement and turns from the exterior and interior. You get a sense of this in “ Mar y Pasaje y Cielo Estrellado”

When a curandero invites us to his house
And presses sweet tea upon us
And later, a bouquet of flaming herbs
Which we must put out with our hands,
It is a metaphor
And a test. The flames are real, the smoke acrid and we are purified,
the fire evaporating
Despite our fear.
We walk up to the doors and shout: “good!”
But what we mean is: Are you here? Are you here?
I find you in the rocking chair, reading.
“There are all the words in the world
And breath enough for them.”

But what did he mean with that fire?

Gregg Shapiro had a minimalist performance, using only a single reader, Alan Kennedy, and a single prop, a stenograph pad. However, this did not hinder the audience from feeling instantly connected, due to the humor and the intimacy of his poetry. For example, in “ Oh this Was a Long Time Ago, When I was Vampire” the speaker of the poem is looking at an old picture of himself, reminiscing and introspecting with fresh honesty. The audience released a good chuckle at the lines:

Who could that be then with my...wide eyes and saucer pupils,
trademark nose-ring, wooden rosary bead necklace, vintage vest and only one chin?

 The performances of Yaddrya Peralta’s poems involved only members of her family. My favorite footage played during “Gilded.” One the right side of the wall, we see Peralta’s poem

a crack of thunder                         a fiery wind
The world is a piece of fruit                         falling
In the hot water                      a slack jawed grouper slides
                As if                       eternity is a thing.

On the left side of the wall is a picture of her young niece looking the part of a child conquistadora, while folkloric music plays in the background. In her armor, she looks strong and feminine, swinging her pink sneakers, looking out from underneath her dark sidebangs and holding a wooden sword.


The sequence that was especially touching during the performance was when the last lines from the poem “Conquering Seed,” which says“ I cannot speak to you” and then slid into the next poem, “ Lempira” where Peralta’s mom, vocalized the language barrier tensions by reading the poem in Spanish, while the screen projected the poem in English. The audience appreciated the intimate and family feel, bravoing very loudly when it came for Peralta’s turn to take a stand. 

Like Shapiro’s poems, Denise Duhamel’s poetry also eschewed a multimedia performace for a more traditional reading.. In her“ Rated R” poems, the visual of a static and colossal black “R” popping up from a plain white background was the only visual accompaniment we needed to feel like we were exposing and discussing problems that are commonly brushed under the rug.

In“Restricted for Bloody Horror” she connects male suffering to a deep maternal wound. When a son dies, isn’t a mother’s loss even deeper? 
Restricted for Bloody Horror
. . .the precious blood of Christ and every soldier who is torn open, spilling human blood. O holy wars and domestic abuse. I’m doing this for you, says Jesus, says the president who says the soldier. Paternal blood, fathers and sons. Maternal blood and menstruation, childbirth and its gone.

Denise’s signature humor and playfulness comes out in these poems, too. Shapiro, who reads like a thespian, used his voice to deliver this one line restriction with subtle sass. 
Restricted for Sexually Oriented Nudity
As HG Wells wrote, “Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.”

M.J. Fievre’s poem, full of drama and tension, naturally translated into a theatrical performance with Chasity Hart as “Paloma”, Guy-Marcel Lilavois as “Jose Armando”, and Charity Hannah Grace as “Shadow.” From “Hialeah”: 

Silence swallows the house and I’m suspended in the dark warmth of its throat.
The good woman at home thinks we’re good together, thinks we’re happy, she doesn’t know me, doesn’t know what I’m capable of.
As the night moves its limbs through the land, you send me the address of a hotel in Hialeah. You send me the room number. You send me a time.
I hold onto you in that hotel room, your body burning like a coal against my thighs. 

Don’t think the tension can be cranked up anymore? How about ending with a tall and striking female in shackles at the mic? 

All five performers demonstrated how the community’s influence can expand the definition and presentation of a poem. Major Jackson, editor of the Harvard Review, was invited by O,Miami. When asked about how he felt about the approach of Poetry Press Week, he said he “firmly believes poems should work on the page because most people experience poetry in a journal or book. But, it’s a really exciting dynamic to have the language receive this kind of interdisciplinary treatment since it allows you to appreciate aspects of their work in a different context.” 

About the editing process, Major Jackson says, “ last night I was thinking [the][poets] have a difficult job. But then I was thinking editors at this event also have a difficult job. We are used to reading submissions in a slush pile; we have a particular way of sifting through the work, so it’s a different experience to select work like this. It’s far more entertaining. Far more pleasurable and pleasing. In fact, I wish the slush pile was as entertaining as this evening and last night.”

After being asked what poets caught his attention, he said he “wasn’t going to name names...it’s between me, them, and their momma.” 

Farah Diba is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.

Poetry Press Week: Night One

Added on by Melody Santiago.

It was a night where the finest lyrical designers put their best verse forward as the poetry-loving public, literary publishers, and members of the press gathered together for Poetry Press Week, held in the chic venue of Mana Contemporary in Wynwood. Created in  Portland, Oregon in 2013 by poets Liz Mehl and Justin Rigamonti, Poetry Press Week has grown in popularity, producing two shows a year, much like its inspiration, the bi-annual showcases in the fashion industry known as Fashion Week. Now that it has made its way across the country to Miami with the help of O, Miami, Mehl and Rigamonti hope to spread the concept, and iterations of the event, to other culturally receptive cities around the country as well. 

All photos by Gesi Schilling.

All photos by Gesi Schilling.

“We think that Poetry Press Week would do well in cities where it could be held in conjunction with other, longer celebrations of the arts, like O, Miami’s poetry events,” Mehl said to me as we sipped complimentary IPAs from Concrete Beach Brewery.“We’re excited to have the opportunity to bring this concept to even more locations.”

The showcase featured the creative talents of rising and established poets as they presented their newest, unpublished works in exciting and unexpected ways. Combining visual, auditory, and performance art—the poets were not allowed to read their own work—the artists created presentations that brought their poetry to a new level of perception, and appreciation. If the concept reminds you of a challenge ripped from an episode of Project Runway, then you’re on the right track. 

A total of five poets presented their work that night, including Annik Adey-Babinsky, Carlos Pintado, Cherry Pickman, and Aja Monet—each putting their own lush, multisensory stamp on their work. One of the standouts of the night was Chastity Hale’s piece, whose collection of poems, themed around flowers, the environment, and how we relate, was the centerpiece to a perfectly balanced fusion of visual and audio elements. Performer Victoria Hasselhof took center stage, silently removing flowers off her dress and hair, until she exposed the blood red of her dress.

The accompanying film, projected behind her, depicted images of a flower-crowned fairy child, vividly colorful scenes of nature, and black and white scenes of environmental devastation, while haunting poems wise beyond Chastity’s seventeen years were voiced over:

In physics, extinction is the shattering of light.
So maybe, if we turn away
as the wavelengths of other species turn to flat lines,

our humanness, our apex predators will shine brighter

Hale’s presentation even prompted Gaby Calvocoressi, Senior Poetry Editor for the Los Angeles Review of Books, to approach the young poet during intermission, no doubt to speak to her of possible opportunities the editor may be able to offer to her. Calvocoressi, along with Saeed Jones, Executive Editor of Culture at Buzzfeed, were just some of the literary editors in attendance that evening.

“I like that [O, Miami] is immersed in the city, and that it’s actually a part of Miami,” said Jones. “Something that worries me about festivals sometimes is that they can be a bit cloistered off from the city or community that they’re located in, so that writers and editors fly in from all over the country and then we all converge in this little bubble…and we leave, often without a sense of what the actual city’s literary community is like. And I think O, Miami is the exact opposite of that. We’re getting an opportunity to actually be a part of Miami, and see the conversations and work that are being birthed in the city, and I love that. I think that’s special.”

Calvocoressi nodded in agreement, and said, “I think it’s an extraordinary festival, and I think that Miami is such a specifically remarkable place. What I admire is that this festival did and does something most festivals don’t. It reevaluates itself, being a festival that is really, deeply invested in the passionate lives of the people of this city. And that I think is something that every festival in this country could pay attention to. It’s not just about a group of writers from a large city coming into a place, it’s about celebrating the poetry that is inherent in the place.”

After the performances concluded, attendees were invited to attend the after party, held down the block and across the street at Kit and Ace. Guests were treated to sweet and tender carved meats and specialty cocktails made of vodka with lemon juice spiced with ginger. 

Clidiane Aubourg is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.

Poetry Today—Delivering Good News to West Kendall

Added on by Melody Santiago.

If you’re a resident of West Kendall, no doubt you’ve received a little something extra on your lawn in the mornings—and no, it’s not from your neighbor’s dog. O, Miami is spreading the good news about local poetry through its Poetry Today project. Throughout the month of April on each weekday, West Kendall residents receive a mini edition of the poetry-themed newspaper, each focused on a different neighborhood in Miami. There will be 20 editions in all, distributed to about 700 homes each day, featuring a total of 110 lyrical greetings from neighborhoods as diverse as Coral Gables, Allapattah, Liberty City, and Wynwood. Select editions of the paper will also be distributed during other O, Miami events this month.

Nicey Jones (local actor Randy Garcia) delivers Poetry Today newspapers to the residents of West Kendall very weekday in April. Photos by Gesi Schilling. 

Nicey Jones (local actor Randy Garcia) delivers Poetry Today newspapers to the residents of West Kendall very weekday in April. Photos by Gesi Schilling. 

With the help of coordinating artist Sandra March, O, Miami held a call for local poets to submit a poem about their neighborhood to be included in the project. “The idea was to create a local newspaper, a dialog between neighborhoods that could be enjoyed in our more culturally neglected neighborhoods. We chose West Kendall because not many cultural events are held there; they often have to travel to places like downtown Miami, Miami Beach or whatever, to enjoy cultural events. So in a metaphorical way, O, Miami was able to go to West Kendall, and bring some culture as well.”

Each neighborhood edition, designed by Sandra, a native of the Catalonia region in Spain, has a 1,000-copy run, and features a special tropical design theme unique to that area, including its own particular plant. “I like the colors of Miami, and also the plants—the area has a lot of tropical nature. I wanted to celebrate that, so that’s why I designed the poems with the plants, to emphasize the organic nature of both.”

The Coconut Grove edition, for example, features a cover proudly displaying its signature denizen, the peacock and is adorned throughout the issue with lovely representations of Spanish moss. Inside, poet Sarah Trudgeon describes her perspective of the area:

Way high up for Miami, the usual distortion:
I’m taller in the empty lot’s burnt grass
with groceries and no shadow;
heavier in my dark apartment, small as an egg.
There was never a grove.
An insurance man draws a map.

If we had more editions like these, maybe the newspaper business wouldn’t be struggling so much.

Clidiane Aubourg is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.

The Village at the Villain Theater—Jai-Alai Magazine Issue 2 Release Party

Added on by Melody Santiago.

On Tuesday, April, 19th, I skipped up two flights of red stairs to expedite my arrival at the Villain Theater in MADE At the Citadel. I usually don’t move like a schoolgirl, but tonight was special for several reasons. 

First reason: Jai-Alai Magazine was releasing its penultimate Issue. Like any countdown, the closer we get to the last number, the more palpable the tension. Second reason, I was going to share my first published poem. Third reason, this was a party at Villain Theater, a hip new spot.

I checked in at the ticket booth, bought a few books and then proceeded to the theater. The room, with black walls and low lighting, was a perfect venue for the event. It felt chic and intimate, spacious enough for about fifty bodies but cozy enough to mingle. 

During mingling time, people flocked away from the seating area and towards the two tables at the entrance of the room. One table, offered gracious giveaways from O, Miami--free beer and KIND bars. But more people were gravitating toward the Books Are Nice! Zine Machine. They were pushing and feeding four quarters into the machine’s mouth to see it spit out Ajiaco: A Food Zine. This zine, with a wonderful splash of the red orange stew on the cover, is described on the O, Miami website as “poems becoming recipes becoming photographs.”

This was a lively little scene and I briefly talked to J.V. Portela, editor of Jai-Alai Magazine during mingling time. He had me thinking about the village it takes to create a literary art scene when he told me “access is the force behind poetic drive.”  

We can see this in action with the chain of events just for this particular night. MADE at the Citadel gave O,Miami access to a space, O,Miami gave Jai-Alai access to a space, and Jai Alai has given poetry geeks access to a space--a place to call home.

What really impressed me was how receptive the audience were to the range of readers. Jan Becker, an MFA candidate at FIU and 2015 AWP Intro Journals Project Award winner, read her powerful essay “An Elder Sister’s Story Song.” The audience was riveted for the entire fifteen minutes it took to read her poem. Solieda Río, one of the prominent voices in Cuban poetry, winner of the Nicolás Guillén Poetry Prize in 2013, read her poem Ofó in Spanish. Portela then read it in English. The audience applauded both. 

What makes Jai-Alai Magazine so special? It’s unique in its philosophy of uniting Miami’s emerging and established writers from all over the world in one collection. For example, some no-name poet like me will be featured alongside the greatness of Frankétienne, who in the New York Times is described as the “prolific father of Haitian letters.”  It’s an interesting feature, like a conga line where two groups that would never mingle miraculously do. 

Also, Jai Alai makes it a point to feature several pieces in translation, because Portela says, “Miami is a city in translation, full of disparate elements that somehow co-exist.”

Tonight I glimpsed the literary village Jai-Alai Magazine and O, Miami have been diligently building. It was a proud moment to see the village dwellers, founders and scene converge into this dark, promising space.

Farah Diba is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.


Added on by Melody Santiago.

As anyone who lives in a sprawling, rapidly-growing city like Miami can tell you, traffic can be a pain. Tonight, said traffic was giving a royal headache as it caused me to miss most of O, Miami’s annual Under the Influence event, where poets Campbell McGrath, Kevin Young, and Melanie Almeder shared poems that inspire them to write.

While I missed most of the festivities, I did get a chance to focus on one of the projects developed for this year's festival, perched curiously in the lobby of the Art Deco Museum. I spied a small wooden box on a ledge above the complimentary cans of Perrier. The box would have been so nondescript as to be ignored were it not for its lone red button on top and a metal inlay of the O, Miami logo on its front. 

Photos by Gesi Schilling

Photos by Gesi Schilling

Feeling a little like Alice in Wonderland, I decided to press the button to see what would happen. Unlike her, I wasn’t disappointed. The box turned out to be the Poem-O-Matic, a project created by self-described, “Dad, Hacker (Maker), Musician and Boy Scout,” Mario Cruz. Built on a RaspberryPi computer platform, this friendly “bot in a box” was programmed to print a keepsake poem for you when you pressed the irresistible red button. As the machine whirred out my little strip of verse, I realized that it was one of McGrath’s own pieces, no doubt in honor of the occasion:

Capitalist Poem No. 5
I was at the 7-11.
I ate a burrito.
I drank a Slurpee.
I was tired. It was late,
after work—washing dishes.
The burrito was good.
I had another.

I did it every day for a week.
I did it every day for a month.

There are 7-11s
all across the nation.

On the way out I bought
a quart of beer for $1.39.
I was aware of social injustice
in only the vaguest possible way.

Now if someone asks me if I enjoyed the event, I can honestly answer yes, and show ‘em the receipt.

Clidiane Aubourg is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016

Healing with Bedside Meter

Added on by Melody Santiago.

What got to AnneMarie was having too keep so still all the time. And the sound of the heart monitor beeping, which she is learning to tune out. This was the hardest work she had ever done, this effort to move as little as possible in her hospital bed, so that she could give her baby girl a chance to grow and get stronger, be ready to face the world outside the cramped and fibroid-filled environment of her womb. 

When I would come to see her, which was several times a week at this late stage in her pregnancy, we discovered, among the talking, the prayers, the playing of music, and the laying of hands, that one of the things that helped little Amelie the most was when I read her poetry. 

Her favorite one was “Still I Rise,” by Maya Angelou. I remember reading it to her during AnneMarie’s eighth month, when it was harder to still her oversized womb, and harder still to keep the monitor on a steady, ignorable rhythm. When I spoke the last lines of the poem, “I am the dream and the hope of the slave/I rise/I rise,” I saw a tiny bump appear on my friend’s belly, reaching for me. Amelie was born soon after that—small from being so crowded by the fibroids, but otherwise healthy. She will be eight this year, and loves to read poetry, but still prefers it being read to her.

It was a similar experience that led poet Quinn Smith to create the Bedside Meter project in partnership with O, Miami and Jackson Health System. “I visited a friend in the hospital and considered the things that I could do to make the experience better. I'm not a doctor, but poetry seemed like a perfect outlet. The idea grew from there.”

That idea turned into the month-long project, coordinated by Quinn, O, Miami and Jackson. On Tuesdays throughout the month of April, volunteer poets take time to visit patients recovering in long-term care at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The poets sit with the patients and ask them if there is a moment in their lives they would like memorialized in a poem. Poet and patient then collaborate to fashion the patient’s words into a poem, which is theirs to keep, and have published if they so desire. “Jackson has been a great partner,” says Quinn, an attorney by trade. “When we brought the idea to them, they suggested the patients in long-term rehab. They connected us with the right people, got the necessary approvals, and really helped push things along.”

But does it help the patients in their healing process? Quinn certainly thinks so. He is a believer in the restorative power of poetry. “I remember writing a poem for my great-grandmother's funeral. The writing process left me with joy, and the reading of the poem conveyed that joy to others. Afterward, a number of people asked for copies--the most I had ever ‘published [at the time].’ From that moment forward, I realized that poetry needed to be something more than nice sounding words.”

Clidiane Aubourg is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.

What do we want? Poetry.

Added on by Melody Santiago.

While attendees to Poetry in the Park relaxed and waited for the main event to start, they were treated to a taste of one of O, Miami’s more vocal projects for poetry outreach, Poetry Protests. Coordinated by artist/activist Marc Saviano, the demonstration, set up on the eastbound side of 17th Street next to Soundscape Park, was a more in-your-face way of getting the word out to South Beach’s commuter and foot traffic about the need to support poetry, art and the people who create it, in our community.

All photos by Gesi Schilling.

All photos by Gesi Schilling.

The “protestors,” a jovial bunch happy to lend their time, arms and voices, carried signs with luric fragments like “Every day is an existential crisis. / Waves of panic. / Oof.” A few cars honked in agreement while they chanted, “What do we want? Poetry! When do we want it? Now!”

“It’s a mixture of performance art and activism, which is something I do regularly anyway,” Saviano said as he lowered his megaphone for a moment to chat. “It was kind of a neat idea that popped into my head as a unique way to present poetry on the streets. It’s a way to present poetry that’s out of the norm, to take people out of their routine maybe, and have them engage with it in a way that shakes it up a little bit, in a subversive way but not really.”

A friend of Saviano’s had participated in O, Miami events before, and suggested that he submit some ideas for this year’s festival. “She knew I had weird ideas, so I submitted a few, and O, Miami selected this one, and we followed up on it.” After poets were called to cull the verses, O, volunteers helped create the signs and joined the protests. You can expect demonstrations at various locations and times throughout the month.

Alexandra Golik and Carolina Dominguez, two of the volunteer protesters, were happy to help the cause, and each other. “Carolina is my best friend, and she works for O, Miami,” Golick said in response to why she joined the protest. 

“Yes, I am interning for O, Miami, and was setting up things for Poetry in the Park,” Dominguez chimed in. “I didn’t know the Poetry Protesters were also coming. So when I heard the megaphone and came over to see what it was about, I decided to pick up a sign and help them out.”

For both young women, it was a fun, different and effective way to shine a spotlight on the call for more poetic access in our community. Golick added, “Whenever there’s a protest going on, you can’t help but want to see what it’s about, so I think this is a nice, fun way to bring attention to the need for more poetry, and more appreciation for the poetry that there is.”

“Absolutely,” Dominguez added. ”It gets them to become a part of the poetry, lure them in, get their minds going and have them see what’s going on.”

I left them to keep on fighting the good fight, as more cars honked in agreement to Saviano’s megaphoned voice announcing, “All the world’s a stage, and platform for poetry.”

Clidiane Aubourg is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.