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O, Miami Poetry Festival Wants Everyone To Write Poems - Including Drake

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The Poetry is Dead Parade in 2013 in downtown Miami as part of the O, Miami Poetry Festival.

It’s National Poetry month and O, Miami has a series of events planned around the county to celebrate the art form.

For eight years, the O, Miami Poetry Festival has brought some of the premiere poets from around the country to South Florida for readings and conversations. There are also opportunities for the public to get involved, such as 'ZipOdes,' the WLRN and O, Miami partnership which encourages people worldwide to create a poem using their zip code. 

The idea is simple: you create a poem using the number of words in each line that corresponds with your zipcode. You can see an example from WLRN's Education Reporter Jessica Bakeman below and contribute your own ZipOde here. O, Miami Director P. Scott Cunningham spoke with Sundial’s Luis Hernandez about all of the new offerings this year to get people involved in writing and reading poems. 

Credit WLRN
Zipode from WLRN Education Reporter Jessica Bakeman.

WLRN: How would you describe all of the events happening this year? 

Cunningham: You know I think the projects this year are really exciting. I think we have some of the best readings we've ever had at the festival. There's a few young poets who I just think are doing amazing stuff that are going to be in town this month.

[O, Miami] is now in its eighth year. You've had a parade, The Poetry is Dead Parade. You had poems on rooftops at one point and I know that you also had put [poems] in urinals. So what did you want to do this year that would outdo all that?

So one thing that we're doing, which we're unveiling [Wednesday] morning, is our first permanent outdoor sculpture, which we've never done before. It's called Stay Gold. And it's at the Robert is Here farm down in South Dade. And it's by the artist Jessie Nite. I mean we've never attempted anything on that scale. And she is based in Miami. So that was really exciting.

Tell us about the sculpture. Give me the scope here of what am I looking at.

So it's about 12 feet high and 40 feet wide. It's a metal sculpture. It's kind of constructed like you would think the Hollywood sign would be. And the color is dirty flamingo. It's really gorgeous because it's actually the way it's built, the sculpture is actually the space around the letters so the letters themselves are open to the environment so the light can come through the trees, which I think is just really beautiful in conjunction with the letters themselves of Stay Gold.

Credit O, Miami Poetry Festival Instagram / Courtesy
An artist rendering of the Stay Gold Sculpture that will be unveiled at the Robert is Here Farm as part of the O,Miami Poetry Festival.

So who are a couple of the [poets] that we should be watching out for? 

So this Sunday is a poet named Kaveh Akbar who's reading in Little Havana who I just think the world of. On April 19th, we have three of the most talented poets I think in the world under 40: José Olivarez, Natalie Scenters-Zapico and a British Jamaican poet named Raymond Antrobus. All three are just incredible readers. Totally different, but I think anyone who comes to that is going to be blown away and be like I didn't realize that poetry was this good. 

Because part of the goal is not just to expose people to poetry, you want people to get involved as well.

Yeah I mean, I think the only way to meet the mission is if people take it on for themselves. I mean obviously that's what we're trying to do with ZipOdes is to say to people, "Hey you can participate." It's easy and you don't have to be an expert or a professor. And a lot of the things that we do are meant to be participatory. On the morning of April 20th we're asking people to meet us on Miami Beach and there's a free pair of flip flops in it. And there'll be poems on the bottom of the flip flops and so we're going to walk up and down the beach and write our own poems in the sand.

Thinking about some of the stuff that you've done, I wonder: is there an ultimate thing you'd like to do, like get a poem on the moon? 

I mean we definitely have some things that we've always wanted to do and haven't been able to pull off for one reason or another. I know one of them is we've always wanted to do something with Publix, but that hasn't happened for whatever reason. One thing we're trying to do this month, which is kind of like a moon shot, we're trying to get Drake to post a poem and tag us in it. I don't know if that's going to happen but we're trying. So we're asking people to post a favorite poem of yours on social media, tag Drake, tag us and say, "Hey Drake it's your turn, post your favorite poem." I don't know if that's going to work but in some ways it doesn't matter if it works because as long as people are posting their favorite poems, that's the mission.

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Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.