Best Of :: People & Places
Richard Blanco speaks like a poet should; his voice is a low, soothing rumble that gives his words the weight of authority. He looks like a woman's dream of a poet; on the cover of this year's The Most Intriguing (and Sensual) Male Poets calendar, his shirt is open to reveal a stretch of tan skin, and his eyes are cast seductively downward. But what makes Richard Blanco our choice for this year's best poet goes far beyond his admittedly attractive visage. Blanco's poetry is powerful, and his poetic journey is unique. It all comes from the unique balance of his brain, which has allowed him tremendous success both in writing as well as engineering, the technically challenging field that pays his bills. Blanco did the poet-as-professor thing in colder climes, at American University and Georgetown University. But he's moved back to Miami now and doesn't plan on teaching anymore. "I realized that I am much more of an introvert than I thought. And being responsible for doing a dog-and-pony show for 80 people every day it really wore me out," he explains. "I came to realize that for better or for worse, a blessing or a curse, I needed to exercise both sides of my brain. I need to do my spreadsheets and my math. It's part of who I am. I really get a kick out of it, just as much as I do with poetry." He spends his days as a civil engineer, consulting for city planning projects. His technical skills are reflected in his poems, which reveal a careful balance of prosaic craft and glowing, tender detail. Blanco's first book, City of a Hundred Fires, was written in Miami and captures the nuances of Cuban-American cultural identity with deft brushstrokes. It won the University of Pittsburgh Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize in 1997. His second book, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, revealed a poet pining for home. Blanco has come full circle back to Miami Beach, but the formerly familiar now seems strange. "Now that I've come back and it's changed -- well, Miami changes every 36 hours it seems -- it's almost like a violation, like, how dare you change without me? I'm trying to stop living off memories, and trying to understand this place on its own terms as it's evolving. Miami as a petri dish has always been an anthropological and sociological marvel," he explains eloquently. Blanco says he returned for his muse, the beach. Evening strolls along the lapping shore fuel his creativity. It will be interesting to see how Miami inspires his future poems. While the poetic side of Blanco's brain finds romance in the city's contrasts, the engineer on the other side whispers fears about a lack of public housing, potential financial ruin, and economic and climactic storms. "There's an overlap between my engineering and the concerns of my poetry. The whole idea of the construct of the city, planning and design -- knowledge that I have from engineering of things that they're doing wrong and not doing.É I fear for Miami sometimes, because it's on the fence. And most people don't realize that," he says in a sobering bass.
James "Jimbo" Luznar opened his joint on Virginia Key, Jimbo's, a half-century ago. And there's no better place on the water to take a toot.
What is your greatest triumph?
We used to be where the Herald building is, but then they said our boats would have to go. So we looked at Snapper Creek, Mart Park, then we ended up on Virginia Key. It stunk sometimes, and there were mosquitoes, snakes, coons, opossums, and iguanas. It cost us a lot of money to be there, but we stayed. They've been trying to get me out of there for a long time, but now everyone all over the world knows Jimbo.
Born in Homestead, Kevin Wynn is the producer and cohost of Downtown Dade, a TV talk show that covers the arts and culture and airs on the county's government access channel. He is also the coprogrammer, with Barron Sherer, of Cinema Vortex, a nonprofit organization devoted to screening unusual, significant, and neglected film and video works. And he's the creator of Public Domain Playhouse, a continuing series of screenings he curates with Sherer.
What is your greatest triumph?
My greatest triumph? I dont do triumph. Ive never had one. I cant tell you how it feels to triumph, or what it looks, tastes or smells like. I wouldnt know triumph if some guy ran over me with a TR4.
There are several safe, clean places where we can let Fido run off-leash in Miami-Dade. Coconut Grove has several dog-friendly parks; the Beach has some nice locations; there's a spot on Virginia Key where dogs can swim and sunbathe; but of all the canine treats in my Miami, the mac daddy of all dog parks is in Aventura. Two years ago the city, which is burgeoning with young dog-owning families, built the expansive new Veterans Park. The $600,000 two-acre expanse has a wonderful, well-kept, welcoming space. There are pooper-scooper dispensers throughout the space. There are doggy water fountains and doggy showers. And the most endearing detail: red fire hydrants. All of this greatness, of course, comes at a price: You have to live in Aventura, and show proof of residence, to gain access. It's almost reason enough to move there.
It is a dark time for Miami-Dade County's executive mayor. The evil lords on the county commission annihilated Carlos Alvarez's bold offensive to strip them of some bribe-making abilities. Then the Galactic Empire displayed the true power of the Dark Side when it crushed Alvarez in the Boundary Wars. Beaten but resolute, the good mayor fled to the outer rim of the county's suburban wasteland to regroup and complete his training. Upon his return, Alvarez successfully destroyed the Imperials' diabolical device: The Public Silencer. In time, this Obi-wan of the Swamp may finally bring balance to the county.
Come one, come all, to the "Read to Farley" sessions at the children's section of the North Miami Beach Library, the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at 4:00 p.m. This is no ordinary dog. This shaggy mop o' unconditional love once suffered from crippling agoraphobia, owing to early abuse. But his patient handler, Margo Berman, a professor at Florida International University, worked tirelessly, training him to overcome his fears and earn his Therapy Dog badge. Now Farley helps shy children who have trouble reading aloud. Once the youngsters sit down with Farley on the colorful rugs, they don't want to stop reading him stories because he is a great listener, mispronunciations be damned!