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O Miami Preview, With Festival Director Scott Cunningham

the Miami Herald
The founder and director of O,Miami, Scott Cunningham

April is coming and that means poetry.  We recently talked with founder and director of O, Miami, Scott Cunningham, about this year’s upcoming festival.



Can you tell me about some of the cool ways you're pushing poetry the upcoming month?

There's a table at the pharmacy at Jackson Memorial- it’ll be there all month of April- and instead of getting a regular prescription, you can get a poetry prescription. It comes in one of three languages: English Spanish or Creole. You pick your language and then you get your pill bottle. When you open it up  there's a  poem inside.

But no pills?

But no pills, no. We didn’t want to confuse anyone. Just poems.

Are there any other ones you're excited about?

Another one is called Poems To The Sky and it's taking poems that are written by kids at two elementary schools in Liberty City and painting them on top of rooftops in Miami-Dade County and the rooftops are all in the flight path of MIA [Miami International Airport]. So the idea is that when people fly in and out of Miami, if they’re on a window seat, they can look down and read this poem that’s talking up to them.

And what do you think people are going to read or hear or experience differently in terms of the subject matter of the poems as opposed to years past?

There's definitely some poems that I think are sort of conscious of the climate change thing. That's something I've noticed. I think the main thing is that more this year than ever we're using poems that were written here in Miami-Dade County. We're trying to put more and more of a focus on not only distributing poems within the county in innovative ways but also the poems themselves being from here.

A lot of them are written through projects that we're doing the other 11 months of the year and then we pick the stuff that's really exciting to us and we try and find innovative ways to get them back out in the world and have people read them. So there's  definitely, I think, a lot more poems that are about here.  When we're using a poet that’s dead or from somewhere else in the world, chances are it's not about Miami. So there's a lot more local content this year.

You mention climate change. Are there any other issues things that have gone on within South Florida in the past year that you think is going to influence the festival?

I think politics. I see that coming up because I think that's on everyone's mind with it being an election year. So we're doing a couple projects that kind of play with the aesthetics of that. One is a project with a group named  Yo Amo 305 where we're making fake campaign lawn signs that instead of advocating for one candidate or another they're just poems or excerpts of poems. There’s another one where we're working with an artist named Marc Saviano and he's going to be doing poetry protests. He's getting volunteers together and they're going to have what looks from far away like protest signs that actually just have poems on them.


Anything else you'd like to add about this year’s festival?

A couple others that I'm really excited about is an artist namedSandra March who lives here in Miami but is originally from Spain. She created a daily poetry newspaper called Poetry Today that we're going to be distributing only in West Kendall. The poems come from 20 different neighborhoods in Miami, but it's only getting distributed in West Kendall. We're excited about that one because not many arts organizations do projects specifically in West Kendall, and for us it's a new thing too, so we’re excited about getting out to that neighborhood.

The other one I think that's a really fun is actually created by an artist collective from New Orleans and it's called Radio Miami. It's short 30-second pieces that play on different radio stations in Miami, but they’re poems. And the poems are kind of produced with music and the music is in the style of the radio stations. For instance, the one on Power 96 sounds like it belongs on Power 96 and the one on the classic rock station sounds like classic rock.

The fact that there isn’t a lot of art in West Kendall is interesting and very true. So that's cool that you get something out there.

Yeah one of our focuses this year was to do things in neighborhoods that -based on the data we’ve collected from previous festivals- that we saw like we haven't had as much of an impact in. Those three neighborhoods are West Kendall, Hialeah and Opa-locka. So we specifically created projects in advance for those three neighborhoods. So we're really excited about trying to get out there more and reach more of the county.