Culture

O, Miami Brings Virtual and In-Person Poetry Events All Month Long

O, Miami founder P. Scott Cunningham
O, Miami founder P. Scott Cunningham Photo courtesy of O, Miami
Oh me, oh my, O, Miami. The annual celebration of poetry returns in April with a slew of event offerings, both virtually and in person.

The 11th edition of the poetry festival begins Friday, April 1, with activations scheduled nearly every day throughout the month. From workshops to poetry readings to community gatherings, there’s plenty for the novice and diehard poetry lover alike.

Two years ago, festival organizers were forced to pivot and adjust their annual monthlong celebration of poetry from all in-person events to a wholly virtual festival. The following year, the nonprofit continued with a hybrid model that was heavy on online offerings.

This year, O, Miami will take lessons learned from its last two iterations and apply a model that will surely satisfy the masses. Founder P. Scott Cunningham tells New Times that virtual options are here to stay.

“I think [virtual events] are something we see the value in,” Cunningham says. “It’s been really nice to connect with people who, for whatever reason — sometimes it’s local people — who just can’t get out to something. It’s nice to have that option for people, and it will always be a part of what we do from now on.”

Despite its new approach to events, O, Miami’s humble yet ambitious goal remains true year after year: to have at least one poem reach each and every Miamian during the month of April.

Last year, the festival focused heavily on poetry in public projects in order to reach more people in the safest manner possible.
The Colony Theatre's marquee will once again be overtaken with original poetry.
Photo courtesy of O, Miami
"We knew [public projects] met our mission of having everyone in Miami encounter a poem, and we also knew it would be safe to do no matter the scenario," Cunningham says. "We could create interactions that people could come across and encounter at their own pace, their own speed — mostly outdoors."

O, Miami 2022 also features plenty of public poetry, including Poetry Parking Tickets (beware, poems that only look like a Miami-Dade County parking ticket) and the Colony Theatre marquee takeover.

Some of the most popular events to come out of last year's festival were the virtual workshops, including a baking workshop that took place over a handful of sessions. Strangers had the opportunity to partake via Zoom from the comfort of their homes while participating in building community.

"People bonded and got to know each other," Cunningham says." These workshops were able to create some intimacy and community for people at a time when that's been harder to do."

Strangers this year will have more opportunities to bond — in person — during workshops, including Lines for Wine (April 21) for wine lovers or Sonnets & Ceramics (April 28) for those who prefer using their hands for more than holding a glass.

Cunningham, who has recently welcomed a third child into his family, says he's looking forward most to Poetry and Pajamas (April 2).

"It's always one of our most popular and, I think, most fun events, because it's just a bunch of kids being really cute in their pajamas in the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens," the new dad says with an audible smile. "I'm really looking forward to that being back in person."

O, Miami Poetry Festival. Friday, April 1, through, Saturday, April 30, at various locations; omiami.org.
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Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.