Does the idea of "poetry" remind you of your tortured teen years of unrequited love and total social rejection? Or maybe Def Poetry Jam comes to mind, with its singsong sounds and its dark themes of rape and race. Luckily, there are poetry readings that escape cliche and melodrama to become pure entertainment.
This past Wednesday night at Sweat Records, a group of poets and their closest ten family members... joke, joke, a group of poets and a full room of fans participated in an interactive reading called Miami Squares. Hosted by the Miami Poetry Collective and Sweat, the event accomplished the impossible: an evening of poetry that was truly and honestly fun for everyone.
As the wordsmiths performed and played goofy games, we checked the faces in the crowd: there were no yawns or bored faces. Maitre'd Jamie May, with his quick wit and bow tie, led the crowd as folks chose the order of poems and who would read them.
Five Miami Poetry Collective members, including Abel Folgar and University of Wynwood Dean of Special Projects Peter Borrebach, chose poems from a stack of 15 to read aloud. They had all been penned by a Poetry Collective member, but no one was allowed to read his or her own verse. Those were the rules, people.
Another of the night's activities, inspired by the association game Apples to Apples, required the crowd to choose the poem title that reminded them of the word "marshmallow," and explain their reasoning. Interestingly, two of the explanations related to s'mores. Yes, s'mores. We guess people were hungry.
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The poem "The Cowboy and the Lady Prohibitionist" required a reading by a lady and a dude. So poet Nick Vagnoni and a female chosen from the audience, artist Antonia Wright, read the funny drama with sweet twangs and smiles.
May told Cultist that this event wasn't "to hear ourselves speak, but to get people to interact with the poems." Though we left not knowing who wrote which poem, each piece was distinct, beautiful, and engagingly read. People laughed, looked sad, and then laughed again. Not all poetry readings resemble that of Mike Myers's in So I Married an Axe Murderer.