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Poetry Is Dead Parade: O, Miami Invites Dead Poets to Walk the Earth

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Poetry and parade are not a pair of terms you often find nestled close together in the same sentence. So how do the organizers of the O, Miami Poetry Festival intend to pull off the thrilling conclusion to their month long, city-wide cultural festival with such a seemingly ill-fitted coupling? By adding a third word to the equation that jibes a bit better with the common man's notion people walking in the streets en masse.

And what is that word, you ask? Zombies, of course.

Come 2 PM on April 28, Miamians will converge at the Betsy South Beach for what organizers have described as a "funeral procession in reverse," marching through Lummus Park decked out as their favorite dead poets, and enjoying poetic performances along the parade route.

"The parade is really the highlight of the festival for me," said P. Scott Cunningham, director of the University of Wynwood, a non-profit organization that serves as one of the main driving forces behind the O, Miami Poetry Festival.

According to Cunningham, the parade won't be short of entertainment and local talent. "The Grand Marshall is going to be Cuci Amador of Afrobeta. DASH, Young Arts, and Miami Arts Charter students will be performing, along with The White Rose theater group. Emerge Miami will be doing live magnetic poetry on bicycles, and the Vice City Rollers, Miami's preeminent roller derby team, will be 'riding' en masse," stated Cunningham.

While the University of Wynwood may be the one of the most prescient bodies organizing the festival, they aren't pulling this off without a few more quality hands on deck, including creative consultant Emma Galler, as well as The Rally Agency, a Miami-based production team that's worked on numerous Art Basel projects since its establishment in 2011.

"The theme of the parade comes from the misconception that 'poetry is dead,' so the parade is a literal reply to that," Cunningham noted. "Some of the poets that will be momentarily 're-animated' inside of Lummus Park include Jose Martí, William Shakespeare, Adrienne Rich, and Walt Whitman. Each group has interpreted the idea of re-animation in a different way."

"And," he added, "there will be a coffin."

So, now the question is: How can you, dear reader, get in on this humorously macabre march of lively lyricism? Scott?

"People who are interested in becoming part of the parade's hoopla are welcome to come dressed as a favorite dead poet, or to come in festive, Miami-ish attire. Everyone is welcome, no matter his or her appearance," he continued, "but the more people who dress up, the more fun it will be."

Not sure who to dress up as? If you've got some Lizard King attire hanging around, you could channel the spirit of Mr. Mojo Risin', Jim Morrison, and represent one of Florida's wildest and most extraordinary native sons to ever pick up the pen. All you'd need are a pair of leather pants, some cowboy boots, and maybe a necklace. If you happen to have some acid on hand too, you're all set.

Cunningham says he has high hopes for Miami's future as a place where poetry can flourish.

"The brain drain [in Miami] is still real, but it's made a serious turn in the last three years. Like any other art form here, poetry is at the mercy of the metropolis itself. It will thrive as Miami as a whole thrives. There's so much more happening here in terms of arts and culture in general, and that has made, from my limited and myopic point-of-view, a big difference in how many young people have moved here or moved back to make a life here," noted Cunningham.

"We still need a public transportation system that works," he pointed out. "We still need more infrastructure that supports bicycle culture. We need more small businesses and pedestrian-friendly areas. Those are things that will make poetry more viable in Miami...I don't think there's a more interesting place in America to be a poet -- just think of all the nationalities, languages, and traditions that intermingle so easily in Miami. That stuff is gold for poets. But this city has to become more livable for young people if it wants to make the next jump."

The POETRY IS DEAD Parade will kick off at 2 PM on Sunday, April 28, at the Betsy South Beach (1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach). Visit omiami.org.

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