With sounds of the weekend’s DJ cavalcade known as Ultra Music Festival still ringing incessantly in the collective ear, a quieter but perhaps even more ambitious set of culture engineers will gather this week for the annual O, Miami poetry festival.
Beginning Wednesday and running through the end of April, O, Miami is a Knight Foundation-blessed series of readings, performances, workshops and category-defying events that celebrate poetry’s mighty possibilities as a literacy tool, as a conduit of social change and as youthfully irreverent entertainment.
Since its founding in 2011, the festival has hosted such celebrated voices as Anne Carson, W.S. Merwin, Richard Blanco, Raúl Zurita, Tracy K. Smith and Kevin Young, as well as literary rock lyricist Thurston Moore and hip-hop freestyler Kool Mo Dee.
O, Miami founder and executive director P. Scott Cunningham says the festival’s mission is merely “for every single person in Miami-Dade County to encounter a poem during the month of April.”
Perhaps the most dramatic example is Saturday’s partnership with New World Symphony for what is billed as “the biggest poetry reading in the history of Miami” at Soundscape Park at the New World Center on Miami Beach. Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Hass will join National Book Award winner Nikky Finney (pictured) for readings to be projected on a 7,000-square-foot space on the side of the New World Center. The free 8 p.m. event will include food, drink and live music beginning at 5 p.m.
Other highlights include poetry karaoke, a literary pub crawl, a poetry-themed pool party, a pickup basketball game, yoga sessions and readings, ranging from local word types Campbell McGrath, Mia Leonin and Denise Duhamel, to Poetry magazine editor Don Share and Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize-winner José Kozer.
The first formal O, Miami gathering is Wednesday's 8 p.m. "Under the Influence" session in the B Bar at the Betsy Hotel on Miami Beach, with Jaswinder Bolina and Cathy Bowman joined by McGrath and Leonin.
Many O, Miami events will take place at the Edgewater Poetry and Athletics Club (461 NE 31st St., Miami), a two-story home transformed for the month into a wellness center for the “spiritually depleted.”
For more information, go to OMiami.org.