Reading Queer: Literary Festival Explores '80s Gay Cruising Culture

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Five years ago, Miami poets Neil de la Flor, Maureen Seaton, and Paula Kolek began to create the series as a way to contribute another aspect to queer culture. Inspired by the poetry movement of O, Miami and Miami Poetry Fest, organizers saw an opportunity to not only further the present queer literary landscape, but to inspire the Miami community to imagine what it is to be queer in the future, according to program director José A. Villar-Portela. He says the queer community is hungry for social and intellectual stimulation not found in typical gay bar culture.

"It's not about serving what is, but imagining what isn't," Villar-Portela said. "We're interested in creating a queer community that is aware of the world around it.... Queer people need to have a place to gather outside a bar and to engage ideas and works of art that are critical and creative instead of escapist.

"It's been an incredible and unbelievable thing... People have a stake in what's happening, and that stake is born out of the need of creating a community around queer literature and art and people are hungry for that."

The series is not just for queers, however. Queerness is about inclusiveness, Villar-Portela says. It's not necessarily just about a person's sexuality; it's about not denying real differences.

"Queer art can be art that is experimental, complicated, anti-patriarchal; not 'who the author is doing, but what the text is doing -- real queer literature has a bigger scale," he said. "The queerness is the potential to create beyond what is allowed, be as weird as one wants to be, and fly your freak flag."

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Miami New Times staff