April has been Poetry Month in Miami- Dade County since 2011. Conceived by Scott Cunningham, the O, Miami Poetry Festival will include 30 events and 23 projects, including performances by Manual Cinema of a piece commissioned by O, Miami.
“The mission is for every single person in Miami-Dade to encounter a poem in the month of April,” Cunningham said. “That’s why it’s a month long and all over the place. It’s why we do a combination of time-based events and projects that are not timed based.”
Since that first O, Miami month in 2011, the popularity of poetry as grown as has the popularity of O, Miami.
“The attendance at things has at least doubled,” Cunningham said. “We have done more things and bigger things pretty much every year.”
How they arrive at which events to promote is different than most festivals.
“We do the festival through user submitted ideas,” he said. “Every year we get more applications and every year they get better. They are finding more and interesting ways to do it.” Cunningham said he particularly is excited about the performances on Apr. 23-25 in Little River by Manual Cinema, a shadow puppetry group. Members will perform a piece based on the poet’s Federico Garcia Lorca’s play, El Divan de Tamarit. “It’s a totally immersive experience,” Cunningham said. “It is strikingly realistic. All the music is performed live.”
Cunningham said other events include a poetry ice cream man who is going to pop up all over Miami and give away ice cream with poems on the dessert.
In the past they had a guy in a Ferrari drive around reciting poems from a bullhorn.
“We’ve flown poems behind airplanes,” Cunningham said. “It’s not appointment viewing. We’re always looking to do something different. Anytime we can combine poetry with a different art form, we get a completely different audience. It just creates a richer array of things.”
Cunningham said poetry is a powerful genre that is accessible to everyone, which is why O, Miami features so many grassroots type events.
“We don’t want to be talking to only those who have master’s degrees,” he said.
On Apr. 25, there is a teen showcase, created through a partnership with the Jason Taylor Foundation.
“The kids are a mix of poets from Miami and Broward,” Cunningham said, adding that the teens were instrumental in planning the event.
“The things they put together are incredible.”
O, Miami was the next step after a visiting poet series that Cunningham and his associates put together in 2009. In 2010, they approached the Knight Foundation to do something larger.
The festival has grown tremendously since then. The visiting poet series continues, but now it’s a partnership with the Betsy Hotel in South Beach.
Cunningham said this is a great time to be a poet.
“There are a lot of presses, a lot of good poets. It seems like more people are paying attention to it as a genre. It’s a good time for people to pay attention. There is a lot of good work out there.”
The events for O, Miami are innovative so it takes time to get them all in place. Work on the festival is on-going.”
“There are projects that are already lined up for 2016,” he added. “Some things are impossible to do on a short timeline.”
For more information on O, Miami, visit www.omiami.org.