Art & Culture Community & Culture Festivals & Fairs Miami Beach Social Trends

O, Miami’s Annual Poetry in the Park

O Miami's Annual Poetry in the ParkSunday, April 12, 4pm-9pm – New World Center and Soundscape Park, 500 17th St, Miami Beach

There was texture – bamboo, cotton, even silk. Blankets covered Soundscape Park’s fresh, spring grass and revealed only glimpses of green. With fresh stings of ocean breeze and low mutters of conversation, silence was still felt. The rustling of pizza boxes, the tugging of colored balloons, whispers, laughter, and megaphones – it all led to silence. There was a silence of respect.

Miami has brought the arts to the public once again.

O, Miami is a Knight-funded organization that, like the Knight Foundation, is fostering the arts. Producing a large poetry festival that expands through the month of April, O, Miami is bringing the magic of poetry to the Magic City.

On April 12, O, Miami brought Poetry in the Park to SoundScape at New World Symphony. Those that arrived early at 4 PM witnessed SPAM All-Stars, accompanied by string musicians from the Sam Hyken Orchestra, perform their rhythmic blends of funkadelic-electronic-Latin-moving beats. As these artists performed, audiences looked around and interacted with the poetry community. With booths featuring the Biscayne poet, Poem Depot, Poetry Manicures, and Poem Pops, audiences had poems, literally speaking, all around them. Whether they were poems to-go or poems on a popsicle, O, Miami made sure that the community encountered at least one poem at the park; paralleling their Poetry Month mission of having the community encounter one poem a day through the month of April.

At 6 PM, a group of what became known as Peddling Poets appeared with Tyler Ho Bynum. Featured poets Adrian Castro, Michele Jessica Fievre, Michael Hettich, Jen Karetnick and Geoffrey Philip accompanied the composer and musician. Together, these performers combined what seemed to be the oddest combination: bicycles, poems, and music. What seemed odd turned out to be, well, odd – Miami odd that is; which, to us Miamians, means winsome and well appreciated.

As these poets peddled, Reading Queer also brought a breakaway from the traditional. With free-form reading, freeing sexuality and freestanding performers, the reading queer combined the freedom of now with the limitations of the past. Engaging the audiences in ‘cruising’, a significant pat of queer culture when sexual encounters where made through codified systems. Performers ‘cruised’ audience members in the most poetically just way possible, by propositioning them to listen to their recordings of poetry.

All of these events, the music, the art, and the food (delicious empanadas from the Empanada Lady and tacos from the Lone Wolf) combined together to produce an engaging blend of culture from all around. These events led to the biggest poetry reading, with Jamaal May and Kay Ryan that began at 7:45.

As audience members were asked to divert their attention to the projection on the 7,000 sq. ft. New World Center, a countdown led to much anticipation. Beginning with an intro montage of Miami’s perception, it became clear that Miami can be summed up in 3 words – post-80’s, Pitbull, and poetry. Another conception of Miami was witnessed through a CG animated poetry short film written by someone that has become an artistic symbol in Miami – Bernardo Britto. El Sol Como Un Gran Animal Oscuro, the 2015 Sundance official selection short film made by Christina Felifgrau and Ronny Rivera, was showcased on the projector.

Following these videos, a live streaming poetry reading began. Detroit-based poet, Jamaal May, read from two of his poetry books, 2013 Hum and a non-released, soon-to-be-published collection. With compelling and linguistically resonating spoken-word poetry, May’s voice boomed, and not because of the surround sound that encased the park. Following him was U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, whose seemingly simple poems prove to be tightly compressed with substance and sound moved the audience in rhythm as she read pieces involving water, islands, and flamingos.

As the reading ending, the thanking continued, and the book signing began, O, Miami successfully concluded a perfectly serene Sunday. As the textures were rolled up, children were cradled asleep, and the silence faded into the crowd. O, Miami, once again, brought Miami lines, stanzas, and fragments that are sure to stay.

Thank you for supporting poetry, Miami.