P. Scott Cunningham, Poetry in Motion

P. Scott Cunningham's dream sounds as simple as haiku. Yet making it real has proven more complex than iambic pentameter.

"Our focus is working hand-in-hand with local people to create a month in which anything is possible."

Here's his ambition, straight from his website: that "every person in Miami-Dade County find a poem during the month of April."

To reach those 2.5 million souls secretly yearning for Yeats, Cunningham (once a Miami New Times editor) in 2011 founded O, Miami — South Florida's first poetry festival. But getting poems into the hands of the people isn't as simple as inviting them to a reading.

So Cunningham and his crew have taken to the skies — hiring advertising planes to pull rhymes on banners through the clouds — and the streets, plastering city buses with a selection of works and renting a Ferrari for public readings on the road. He's aimed for the stars by booking James Franco as a speaker and shot for stomachs by pairing his events with massive Cuban buffets.

"We don't ever want to lose sight of the fact that Miami is the reason we produce poetry events," Cunningham says. "Our focus is working hand-in-hand with local people to create a month in which anything is possible."

The Boca Raton native hasn't quite cracked 100 percent poetry saturation rate yet, but he'll have a better shot of reaching ever more eyeballs beginning next year. O, Miami will switch to an annual format instead of skipping every other year, and Cunningham's other literary creation — the fictional University of Wynwood ("Go, Lady Pythons!") — is expanding beyond its journal, Jai Alai Magazine, to start a full local small press called Jai Alai Publishing.

Cunningham's dream might be far more complex than it sounds, but his impact on Miami is pretty damn simple. By staging a festival that's not afraid to be ridiculous, to try insane stunts — to have fun, dammit — he has made poetry matter in the Magic City.

"We don't want Miami to have a literary scene," Cunningham says. "We want Miami to have a literary culture. That doesn't come from the top down. That comes from the bottom up."

 
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