Miami Poetry Collective Brings Miami Squares to Sweat Records

Miami's finally figuring out that it's awesome to get creative with your friends and then share your genius, or whatever, with the rest of the city. Miami Poetry Collective demonstrated this last summer at the inaugural Miami Squares at Sweat Records. The interactive poetry reading was packed with pleased fans and smiling poets. 

The MPC grew out of a plan for Florida International University MFA poetry students to drink beer and read poetry together. Their first project was the Poem Depot, where poets pumped out custom verse on typewriters at the Wynwood Art Walk. This Wednesday, MPC will seduce you with Miami Squares with poems by Yaddyra Peralta, Nick Vagnoni, Jamie May, Jessica Machado, David Gonzalez and Kacee Belcher. We spoke with organizer Peter Borrebach about why this isn't just another boring poetry reading.

New Times: Miami Squares, this is something you organize with the Miami Poetry Collective? 

Peter Borrebach: One of the things the MPC didn't do was give readings. We would go out with our typewriters and do the Poem Depot and make the cent journal. We did one reading at the Book Fair in 2009, where we did a special broadside and read that. We hadn't done any other readings ever and that's a big part of poetry is not just writing it or printing it, but actually reading it. 

Poetry can be really boring too. The worst part of poetry readings is that people read poems. So we were just trying to find this way that it would be more interesting for everybody, and more interactive. 

So you're making poetry fun in Miami.

We're trying to, a lot of it, not to sound self-serving, but we're trying to entertain ourselves as much as anybody else. I mean poets depend on an audience. And we wanted an audience that's engaged and engaging and that's what we found with the Poem Depot stuff, you're out there, and there's this kind of interaction and we're all performing in that way. 
At Miami Squares, instead of just reading our poems, we have an interactive thing with the audience, who get to choose who reads what or when. This strips out some of the usual trappings of a poetry reading where often a poet has worked in their attic or their laboratory and like comes out of hiding and reads these revelatory moments they've had alone. And the audience is expected to just sit there and be awed by our great inspirations. 

And this way, when you're reading someone else's poem, you don't have any chance to shuffle your papers and have your hands shaking, like "My grandmother died, and I saw the moon, and the moon smiled back and me and I knew my grandmother was a crow..." Instead, you just read the poem, and if the audience gets to play the game about who's reading next and when. It's just a more interesting event overall. 

Why do you write poetry?

I think that poetry is the most powerful mode of expression there is. I think that poetry is the origin of all works of art and that all language and all creative expression at core is a poetic and lyrical experience. I write poems to bring that experience to other people and let them know and empower them to make their own poetry as well. 

Here are the rules and game for this Wednesday night's Miami Squares event at Sweat Records (5505 NE Second Ave, Miami) at 8 p.m. 

1. Every poet contributes poems but cannot read their own.
2. The audience must have direct input into how the reading proceeds. 
This month's game:  
Taking an iconic image from each poem and turning it into a 5 or 7 syllable line. From these lines, the audience will be creating haikus. The room will vote to decide on the best haiku and then the poets who are holding the poems from whence the haiku's images came will read the entire poem.

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy