Inaugural poet Richard Blanco got the crowd's eyes all damp with his descriptions of a childhood family visit to Marco Island. Thurston Moore dedicated his poems -- the ones through which he dragged us, limp with love and starstruck -- to the lady who gave birth to him, his mom, who was in the audience. Parks and Recreation staff writer Megan Amram read some intricate verses about her twin brother, born just minutes before she was herself hatched.
It seemed from the readings that O, Miami's finale last night at the New World Symphony focused on two things: family and Miami. The dedications made this big city feel small and tight, like we all understand each other, like we all have the same tattoos, eat the same food, share the same cousins.
The very short Julian Yuri Rodriguez film that screened told a complete visual and emotional tale, in what felt like seconds, of a what-might-actually-be gang, inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks' "We Real Cool." We, (real cool) Miami, are a gang. Hating, loving, protecting, daring, and growing together. A community, a family. And, in a romantic way, O, Miami has proven to be a month-long poem, with events as the words, dedicated to this weird, hot place.
P. Scott Cunningham, the brains and brawn behind the festival, admitted in his introduction, that he's learned a few things about what people want from poetry. Before a miscalculated first day, when he set up typewriters at El Palacio de los Jugos, he said he thought anyone who can write could write a poem. But he found out that day, after meeting an illiterate poet in West Miami, that anyone that can talk can create a poem. And with the inclusion of so many different kinds of writers last night, as opposed to the first year's James Franco event, it's clear he's closer to diversifying the message.
The room wasn't full. Maybe in the learning, there was an audience lost. But either way, the experience was nearly balanced. It had the Borscht crew bringing video, a hip-hop spoken word element, kids reading poems, visiting poets, rock stars, and a seasoned native wordsmith who just happened to write a poem for Barack Obama that was heard by the whole world.
The night started with a reading by Marcos Fuentes, a pre-teen in a vest and red Ray Bans folded over the cuff of his shirt. Then the whistle of Scorpions' "Wind of Change" took over the room and shot us back to 1991, complete with the embarrassment we felt hearing this song on the radio every day in elementary school, combined with the impulse to whistle along. Suddenly, artist Agustina Woodgate was on the screen, talking about dying, or maybe about how she wasn't going to die, ever. The film, created by Lucas Leyva and Jillian Mayer, questioned about a half dozen people -- including Colin Foord of Coral Morphologic; Debroah Scholl, the wife of Dennis, who doles out the Knight Foundation funds that created the festival; artist Adler Guerrier; the ever adorable Liz Ferrer -- on the subject of their own demise.
Comedian Jessica Gross said she wanted to be burned in a pretty dress. Director Julian Yuri Rodriguez said an ex-girlfriend would likely off him. It was whimsical, humorous, and personal, but not overwhelmingly intimate.
The next, less morbid, part of the evening was when the "That's So Miami" poetry contest winners read. The poem "Do Not Go Slowly to That Green Light" elicited the most glee, though all five poets gave the city cause for applause.
The spoken word aspect of the night was taken care of by Eduin Turcios who read his poem about his lover "Poetry" with passion and urgency. It ended with the line: "I really appreciate you poetry, 'cause you set me free." Then Maxis Made and Diego Mosquera came out and spoke their poem as a round, staggering lines, speaking at the same time. They almost sang their intense ode to family, "Father."
Frank Baez read his incredibly smooth, heavily rhythmic poems in Spanish first, followed by translations by Dave Landsberger. My date turned to me and said, "This poem is about how his mother wanted him to go to law school." Though I didn't understand much, I definitely heard the word "DJ" repeated often enough to know this was a lie. But Baez's poetry got the whole crowd chuckling, especially with the one about having a ton of hair and never going bald. The guy had a lot of hair.
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Amram, the total outsider of the night, came out with a joke about the last time she came to Miami. She was five, and said she couldn't remember it because she was probably "wasted." That led into a poem she said was "fitting for Miami, as it's about Jews and wine." It was called "Manischewitz."
Thurston Moore is an estranged Miamian that's returned home quite a bit recently after so many decades away. He performed earlier yesterday at Sweat Records with Rat Bastard, Kenny Millions, and Steven Bristol, a set much like we covered during Art Basel at a house party in Wynwood. All of Miami is thrilled with his return, and after hearing his stories about growing up in South Miami during the KURT multidisciplinary show at the Gusman, it seems he's happy to be home. His forceful delivery and poems written at the Buddhist school where he teaches in Boulder had us hypnotized. And though he dedicated his set (if you will) to his mother, some of the poems had us all thinking: Is that about Kim Gordon?! Listen, we're only human.
And just when we thought it couldn't get cooler than Thurston freaking Moore (and it really can't), Richard Blanco hit the stage with a bunch of stories and poems that had us watching his mom swimming in the ocean, holding hands with his dying father, and laughing at his grandmother's homo-hatred. He wrapped the evening up with, as he put it, "the inaugural poem that I won't lip-sync." To hear it read by the author himself, just months after the event, was truly an awesome experience and the perfect poetic climax for Miami's 2013 O, Miami month.