O, Miami Poetry Cruise Sets Sail Again on Friday

It’s been six days of O, Miami. Have you encountered a poem, yet?

That’s the goal of the O, Miami Poetry Festival—to deliver a poem to every person in Miami-Dade County. Founded in 2011, O, Miami coincides with the celebration of National Poetry Month, which was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.

Since this year’s kickoff event last Wednesday, April 1, O, Miami has thrown a poetry party on a boat, invaded The Betsy Hotel for readings (part of the annual “Under the Influence” series), and hosted a workshop at the ArtCenter/ South Florida.

This Friday, though, O, Miami offers a reprisal of its opening night event, a poetry cruise co-created and co-produced with The New Tropic. The boat boards promptly at 7:30 p.m. from Bayside Marina, travels up the Miami River while local poets read original compositions and guests take swigs of Biscayne Bay Brewing Company’s brews, and re-docks in Bayside at 9:30 p.m.

Last Wednesday’s cruise featured five original poems by local poets. During the official after-party at the the InterContinental Hotel’s Toro Toro Bar, O, Miami Founder/Director P. Scott Cunningham explained over a glass of wine that the idea for the river cruise came up almost a year ago while brainstorming with The New Tropic’s team. “We knew we wanted it to be local, something that really highlighted a certain area of Miami because that’s something that unites both organizations,” he said. “We knew we wanted to do something that took people somewhere they might not go on a regular basis.”

As the Miami Lady sailed at a slow, no-wake speed past famous landmarks along Biscayne Bay and the Miami River, local poets stepped up to the on-boat PA system to read their works written for those locales. Rebekah Monson read the Opening Prayer to Bayside that poked fun at the super-tourist tchotchke stores and ended with the following amen-like conclusion: “And the people say, ‘¡Dale!’”

When the boat moved past Brickell Key and neared the Epic Hotel, poet, author, and local professor Steven Karl made his offering to Mark Cuban’s yacht, Fountainhead.

”I thought I was just going to write about a basketball game that took place on the yacht in the middle of the ocean,” he said afterwards at the InterContinental. “Then I remembered that Paul Violi had these poems where you had to guess what the poem was.”

Karl ended up writing that poem for Mark Cuban’s yacht, called “I.D.,” in the voice of the yacht itself. Plus, he said, it has “a little bit of fun poking fun at Mark Cuban.”

Later, while cruising up the Miami River, Reading Queer’s executive director Neil de La Flor offered a ode to Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market in a list-like structure based off menu items. Sarah Trudgeon read a poem for Fort Dallas, Jaswinder Bolina read a poem for Marlins Park, and Afrobeta adapted “Me Voy A Pinar Del Rio,” a song made famous by Celia Cruz, to “O, Pinar del Rio” with special Miami-isms.

For Friday’s cruise, Cunningham noted that some structural elements will remain the same, but that the featured poets and poems will differ. But between now and then O, Miami’s schedule includes an afternoon of bilingual social justice poems at the Bakehouse Art Complex, a kayak poetry workshop on the bay, and a multi-disciplinary performance inspired by Muhammad Ali’s Miami years at The Light Box at the Goldman Warehouse. 

“As always, I just hope people enjoy it,” said Cunningham. “For everything we do, [I hope] it takes people out of their usual routine and bring some delight to their lives.

The Miami River Poetry Cruise #2 takes place Friday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $45 and are available to purchase online here

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Hilary Saunders