As Miami’s cultural landscape boomed in the past decade — with the influx of major art fairs, new museums, and local galleries opening in up-and-coming neighborhoods — the city’s queer culture was in flux. Reading Queer, a Knight Foundation-sponsored cultural organization, is looking to change that fact by highlighting voices from a community that remains fractured between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Recently, the group announced a publication deal for a paperback anthology of poetry from local bards and internationally recognized queer writers.
“I think it’s the first Miami-based anthology of queer voices,” says founder Neil de la Flor, who has also contributed to New Times. “Poetry has had a resurgence because of the political climate and the need to huddle together and connect. Queer writers have an ever greater need to reach each other through every means," he says, including social media and poetry.
Thanks to Reading Queer, Miami’s LGBTQ community has had a forum that gives voice to underrepresented stories. It’s badly needed in a city whose queer culture was split in two after the gentrification of South Beach.
In the late '80s and '90s, South Beach became a mecca for artists, freaks, and queers fleeing New York City for cheaper rents and white sands. Thanks to their work, Miami Beach received a badly needed jolt of energy. Soon came hotels, clubs, and restaurants, largely financed and managed by the new crop of residents. That special mix of cultures and sexualities made South Beach a world-class destination. But it didn’t last.
In the early '00s, as rents began to rise, the first wave of gentrifiers — now 20 years older — were priced out and slowly migrated north to Wilton Manors and adjoining neighborhoods in Broward County.
“Miami just simply got too expensive, especially since the epicenter of queer culture took place on South Beach in the '90s,” de la Flor explains. Yet he doesn’t think the line in the sand between the two centers of South Florida’s queer scene is impenetrable.
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“I guess I see I-95 as a bridge, not a divider, between the Miami queers and the Wilson Manors queers. In fact, most of my friends live in Fort Lauderdale. Wilton Manors is South Beach of the '90s, or maybe Provincetown, in that it concentrates so many of us in one big collective community huddle. Safety in numbers. Also, more fun in numbers too.”
It’s that same sense of safety through community engagement that de la Flor has worked to cultivate in Reading Queer’s yearly programing. With the publication of the new anthology, not only will queer writers get a platform they never had, giving voice to the local communities’ stories, but also the connection between the two will undoubtably strengthen.
Reading Queer: Poetry in a Time of Chaos is set for release February 10, 2018. The book can be preordered at anhingapress.org.