P. Scott Cunningham's dream sounds as simple as haiku. Yet making it real has proven more complex than iambic pentameter.
Here's his ambition, straight from his website: that "every person in Miami-Dade County find a poem during the month of April."
P. Scott Cunningham
To reach those 2.5 million souls secretly yearning for Yeats, Cunningham (once a Miami New Times editor) in 2011 founded O, Miami — South Florida's first poetry festival. But getting poems into the hands of the people isn't as simple as inviting them to a reading.
So Cunningham and his crew have taken to the skies — hiring advertising planes to pull rhymes on banners through the clouds — and the streets, plastering city buses with a selection of works and renting a Ferrari for public readings on the road. He's aimed for the stars by booking James Franco as a speaker and shot for stomachs by pairing his events with massive Cuban buffets.
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"We don't ever want to lose sight of the fact that Miami is the reason we produce poetry events," Cunningham says. "Our focus is working hand-in-hand with local people to create a month in which anything is possible."
The Boca Raton native hasn't quite cracked 100 percent poetry saturation rate yet, but he'll have a better shot of reaching ever more eyeballs beginning next year. O, Miami will switch to an annual format instead of skipping every other year, and Cunningham's other literary creation — the fictional University of Wynwood ("Go, Lady Pythons!") — is expanding beyond its journal, Jai Alai Magazine, to start a full local small press called Jai Alai Publishing.
Cunningham's dream might be far more complex than it sounds, but his impact on Miami is pretty damn simple. By staging a festival that's not afraid to be ridiculous, to try insane stunts — to have fun, dammit — he has made poetry matter in the Magic City.
"We don't want Miami to have a literary scene," Cunningham says. "We want Miami to have a literary culture. That doesn't come from the top down. That comes from the bottom up."