When I moved back from college, I was not about Miami.
Before I left back in 2007, the city had some redeeming qualities but as far as a literary scene it was slim pickings. I longed for campus life, when simply walking around town you’d feel the second-hand learning. Everything was game for curiosity or creativity. People actually did book clubs, and if you wanted to see art you didn’t have to be a millionaire. This, of course, has changed in recent years. With the birth of Wynwood and initiatives like O, Miami Poetry Festival, Miami has turned into an ecosystem ripe with writing, arts and culture.
But back then, poetry month was my solace. I held onto its free events like they were the only life vest in a vast ocean of club goers and overpriced bars. In short, I’m a fan. Big time.
It wasn’t until recently though that I ever took my fan-girling from spectatorship to sport. With the announcement of this year’s open call to the public for project submissions, I went to The New Tropic headquarters to see the man behind the month, P. Scott Cunningham.
What was a crazy idea that would never materialize, my girlfriend and I had a thought: poetry on political lawn signs would be the ultimate bate-and-switch. If people were as easily infuriated by fo-tickets on their windshields inscribed with poetry and deceiving Miami Dade city typeface, imagine the politically-charged fire breathing that would come to be if someone saw what looked like campaign propaganda on their lawn.
The idea simmered until a few weeks later a light bulb went off at work. Yo ❤ 305, a recent symbol of pride for the city, was the perfect fit to back this project. I’ve been following Yo ❤ 305 on Instagram for a while now. Before I worked with the brains behind the brand, I’d seen their shirts sold in the PAMM gift store and loved the way they glorified what I once hated about Miami. Dale croquetica didn’t erk me the same way anymore. It was the familiar sounds of a family reunion; its charm intrinsically linked to its embarrassment.
When we submitted our ideas, we weren’t sure we’d make the cut. Getting the email that we were chosen was like getting called by that boy you really, really like. Collaborating with the O-team revealed an impressive peak into what seemed like a much larger operation. Cunningham and his right-hand gal, Melody Santiago Cummings, pull it all off with ferocious coordination and grit. Talk about being scrappy. While they do have funding from the great people at the Knight Foundation, make no mistake the secret sauce is in the duo.
Stepping into their world has been humbling and inspiring as an artist. Although the project took me to FIU campus at 10 AM with Miami’s sun blazing and sweat literally pouring down my butt, when an on-goer recognized the poetry it was suddenly worth it. Since then, our sweaty adventure has taken us to the likes of West Chester, Hialeah and calle ocho.
Our second project featured Hialeah Haikus painted across espresso cups. Its allure is deeply connected to our Miamisms. If you didn’t grow up here, you wouldn’t get it and that’s okay.
For more information on these two amazing projects, click here and follow us on Instagram.
O, Miami Poetry Festival is coming for you,