April is great-weather-month in Miami, and great weather, of course, leads to lyrical thought. The more so because it happens to be National Poetry Month, and Miamians do it big thanks to the O’ Miami Poetry Festival.
Launched in 2011, the Festival has grown into a month-long celebration of written, spoken, silent, illustrated, enacted, projected, submerged, hidden, eaten, meditated, suspended, licked and drunken verse. The calendar can be found here and includes a poetic catwalk called Poetry Press Week, a format borrowed from the more mediatic fashion week presentations hosted at various cities. In it, poets strut their work down a runway while buyers (editors and publishers) pick the poems they want to sell (offer online to a niche group of loyal readers).
Other events I have on my calendar are the “supper-club inspired” YoungArts‘s poetry pairings dinners, held at the gorgeous Bacardi Tower in mid-town Miami. While abundant food and drink is served, YoungArts-certified poets share their work, with music and props for good measure.
I already attended the cult-like “Current,” hosted at South Beach’s ultra-cool Standard hotel. The immersion piece outfitted twenty or so willing strangers with matching dental-assistant bathrobes, blacked-out goggles, green swimming noodles and snorkels and led us into the hotel’s pool, which features an underwater sound system. While we floated like blind, powerless manatees, artist Jillian Mayer read a guided meditation. It was surprisingly relaxing, and the event’s unsettling aspects were overcome during sunset cocktails at The Standard’s bar.
For those that cannot make it to the Magic City during April, retail solace can be found via the Festival’s publishing house, Jai Alai Books, where beautiful, affordable, physically printed books by poets related to O’ Miami are available for purchase. Tucked in my shopping cart is Rio Cortez, whose book “I have learned to define a field as a space between mountains” won the inaugural Toi Derricotte + Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize, offered in part by O’ Miami. I also picked up a copy of Eight Miami Poets, edited by P. Scott Cunningham, the Festival’s creator.
As O’ Miami keeps getting better and better, and as winters worldwide get longer and scarier, April in Miami should be on everyone’s cultural repertoire.