Booktanica comes to downtown Miami for Art Basel

Added on by Scott Cunningham.

For Miami Art Week 2017 (aka "Basel"), O, Miami and Jai-Alai Books created Booktanica, a bookstore + botánica in downtown Miami.

Our partners were the incredible Donna Freeman, proprietor of Spirit and Beyond, and Dr. Martin A. Tsang, curator at the Cuban Heritage Collection at the University of Miami.

We also sold products by Curandera Press and The Serpent's Forge, and we were thrilled to be next-door neighbors with our friends at Dalé Zine.

Booktanica was located at the 777 Building on Flagler Street and was made possible through support from MANA Contemporary. Thank you MANA!

Read all about it in Culture DesignersThe Miami New Times.


Jai-Alai Books Wins Knight Arts Challenge 2017

Added on by Scott Cunningham.

Jai-Alai Books To Publish “The Miami Trilogy”: Three New Titles Exploring Miami’s Most Pressing Civic Issues

In order to inspire civic action, Jai-Alai Books, the small press imprint of O, Miami, is publishing three books about the three most pressing issues in Miami: transit, sea level rise, and poverty.

Each book in the series, collectively titled "The Miami Trilogy," will focus on one of the three themes, and each will have a unique design, editorial, and distribution strategy.

The first book, Making Good Time, is an anthology of thirty-one Miami transit stories edited by Lynne Barrett and featuring writers such as Richard Blanco, Chantel Acevedo, Diana Abu-Jaber, Jennine Capó Crucet, Les Standiford, and Tom Swick

On Monday, December 4th, “The Miami Trilogy” was awarded a grant from the Knight Arts Challenge, created by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in order to fund the best ideas for bringing South Florida together through the arts.

"The arts are a wonderful lens for examining pressing issues. Jai-Alai books has decided to take up the mantle and probe three of the most important facing Miami, which we hope will advance the conversation, around transit, sea level rise and poverty," said Victoria Rogers, VP/Arts at Knight Foundation.

This is the second time Jai-Alai Books has been awarded a Knight Arts Challenge grant, and the third for O, Miami as a whole.

The Miami Trilogy is the most ambitious and important project the press has tackled,” says Executive Editor P. Scott Cunningham. “I’m thrilled that Knight Foundation has given the books an opportunity to reach as many readers as possible.”

Making Good Time will be released in 2018. The Sea Level Rise and Poverty books will follow in that order, and the whole project will wrap up by the end of 2019.

To see all the Miami winners, visit Knight Arts.

About Jai-Alai Books
Jai-Alai Books is a publishing imprint celebrating Miami culture, history, and language. Run by a collective and proudly regional, the press operates under the umbrella of O, Miami Poetry Festival and publishes titles in a variety of genres.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy.

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’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