April is Poetry Month and once again O Miami has a monthlong calendar of events for poetry fans and those that organizers hope to convert into poetry fans.
O Miami organizer Scott Cunningham is happy about the first permanent art piece in a public place. It is scheduled to be unveiled Apr. 3 in a field by the Robert is Here farm stand. Called Stay Gold, the piece is in partnership with artist Jessy Nite and is inspired by a Robert Frost poem.
“We got a Miami Foundation Public Space grant for it,” Cunningham said.
That grant covered about half the cost and they created a Kickstarter campaign for the rest.
One of O Miami’s goals has been to create ongoing accessibility to poetry. So, they created a program that brings in poetry teachers to schools.
“We are currently in four schools,” he said. “We’re looking for a program where there is not a dedicated poetry course.”
The poetry classes give the students increased self-esteem and new confidence in language arts.
Atena Sherry is one of the poetry teachers for the Sunroom Poetry Program. She teaches classes at Emerson Elementary in Westchester.
The program is staffed by people who are poets themselves or artists.
She goes to the school once or twice a weekend depending on the school’s schedule. Last semester she taught three classes of third and fourth graders. This year, she is teaching once a week — one class of third grade students and one fourth grade class.
She teaches for eight weeks.
At the end of the program, there is a celebration where each child shares jis or her poem. And each child receives a book of the class collection.
“I’ll look back over the term and I select what I consider the best poem,” she said. “Each student gets one poem in the book and each class gets a book.”
She helps them practice reading out loud.
“Each student gets up and reads the poem. The kids love it,” she says. “They get super nervous. They get to take home a copy of that book.”
Emerson is a bilingual school, so the curriculum is taught in Spanish and English.
“I try and incorporate at least one class with a Spanish element in it,” she said. “I don’t speak Spanish fluently so I had another poet who speaks Spanish fluently come in.”
She loves being a part of the program.
“It’s been so great. The kids are just amazing and totally sweet and excited about poetry,” Sherry said. “They are so inspiring. The program is not about making these kids learn the structure of different poems. It’s about having fun and giving them giving them a creative outlet to play and give them a love of poetry in the future.”
O Miami gives those students the opportunity to find poetry in the most unusual places. Throughout the month, they will be able to find poetry on stickers that are put on fruits. There will be poetry on the sand on Miami Beach and Poetry Parking Tickets. Cunningham says folks who live in Little Haiti may find themselves gifted with high quality poetry umbrellas.
O Miami has partnered with a South Miami K-8 to do a project where the students are inserting poetry into Fortnight.
“It’s massively popular and the students are excited about it,” he says.
Wrap-up programs include an event on Virginia Key, called Poetry in Paradise Renewed, on Apr. 28, and Songs for Poets, an event where songs created from the pairing of poets and musicians will be performed on Apr. 30.
For more information, go to www.OMiami.org.