I love the great outdoors and poetry, but O, Miami had me beat to the brilliant adventure idea: take a flotilla of kayaks from Matheson Marina, glide into a canal for six more miles and end up at Coral Gables Wayside Park where everyone reads ecologically themed poetry. Call it environmental activism, a romantic adventure, or green poetry. Whatever you name it, I was stoked.
Our flotilla got split into two camps, those following flotilla leaders Mario and Emma, both candidates of UM’s MFA program in Creative Writing, and the rest of us who thought we could cheat the wind system and attach ourselves to a motorized boat and get dragged via engine until we arrived at waveless, unresistant canal waters.
A smart boy named Manny, on a double with his older sister, summed up our success with a Queen cover: “We are the losers, my friends.” Feeling like the opposite of champions, my kayak-mate and I lost patience with our progress, and decided to just row, row, row our boats.
And we did. I was in a double, and my kayak-mate and I prided ourselves on never capsizing despite the rough waters. However, without a map or knowledge of the canal system, we got lost. Were we at sea or the Biscayne Bay?
We did see something familiar: two members from our Flotilla, Courtney Hapon, and Sapir Elazar, and they had knowledgeable devices stowed away on the dry bags they carried. We connected with them and pulled out Google maps. Then we realized: seven miles one way. We had only rowed one mile, but with all the choppy waves and wind resistance the familiar tropes of feeling tired and dehydrated and surrounded by salt water started to play out. We saw our oasis--a private beach fully equipped with sand and beach chairs. If any estate owners were bothered, we’d move. But for the sake of poetry, we had a persuasive speech prepared.
Well we were able to grace the shores of this man-made beach with some poetry by Coutrney Hapon, Jorge Pazos, and yours truly. Sapir, a young lawyer from Boca, was a great audience member. We jumped back into our kayaks and joined the rest of the poetry camp at Coral Gables Wayside Park, where poetry protesters chanted lines of apocalyptic verse.
During the readings, Tony from Afrobeta improvised some music in collaboration with readers. The first reader read a Gregory Pardlo poem like he was protesting, and read it out of a bullhorn. Cuci, from the duo Afrobeta, even got inspired to share one of her poems about basses sounding too “trebbly,” which morphed into “a pony ride”, “shaving off your hair,” and felt like “finding candy at the fair.”
The next reader that opened up my poetry world was named Adam. He was a high school literature teacher from Miami-Dade Public Schools wearing a tie around his head. He read a stunning poem by Richard Brautigan about a “cybernetic forest/ filled with pines and electronics/ where deer stroll peacefully/ past computers/ as if they were flowers/ with spinning blossoms.” After Adam quoted Richard Brautigan again: “every girl should have a poem, even if we have to turn the world upside to down to do it.” Amen.
Farah Diba is a writer living in Miami, Fl. She will be contributing blog posts for O, Miami Poetry Festival 2016.