Obama picks Cuban-born, Miami-raised poet for inauguration

By | January 9th, 2013 | No Comments

Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles who grew up in Miami, will recite an original poem at Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration, on January 21, according to the New York Times.

From the moment Barack Obama burst onto the political scene, the poet Richard Blanco, a son of Cuban exiles, says he felt “a spiritual connection” with the man who would become the nation’s 44th president.

Like Mr. Obama, who chronicled his multicultural upbringing in a best-selling autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Mr. Blanco has been on a quest for personal identity through the written word. He said his affinity for Mr. Obama springs from his own feeling of straddling different worlds; he is Latino and gay (and worked as a civil engineer while pursuing poetry). His poems are laden with longing for the sights and smells of the land his parents left behind.

Now Mr. Obama is about to pluck Mr. Blanco out of the relatively obscure and quiet world of poetry and put him on display before the entire world.

To learn more about Blanco, who honed his craft at FIU and writes about “negotiating the world” as a “mainstream gay” man who came out of a very conservative culture, read the NYT’s profile. On this recording, Blanco reads “América”, a poem from his first collection, City of a Hundred Fires.

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Franco en route, Hoagland enrapt

By | April 30th, 2011 | 6 Comments

Here’s what was supposed to happen: Actor and alleged poet James Franco was to read from his recently published book of short stories, Palo Alto, in the main hall of the New World Symphony while an enrapt packed house wondered to itself why God makes some so pretty and others just eh. Instead, a confluence of vicissitude — persistent rain and President Obama vetoing the airspace above the Magic City as Air Force One left Miami International — made it so Franco’s plane sat on a runway in Orlando two hours after the O, Miami event was scheduled to start.

Disaster, right? Not exactly. As you can see from the above photo, the Green Goblin did eventually make it, and though he was conspicuously in no mood to flash a smile at hundreds of starry-eyed strangers and sign whatever they put under his pen, he did exactly that for more than an hour.

But that wasn’t what saved the evening.

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Kool Moe Dee Vocab Freestyle

By | April 29th, 2011 | No Comments

Thursday night, at the New World Symphony in South Beach, Hip Hop godfather Kool Moe Dee took the stage to discuss the nexus of rap and poetry as O, Miami kicked off its final weekend. Yale Anthology of Rap editor Adam Bradley, English emcee Monie Love, and poets Adrian Castro and Adrian Matejka also dropped knowledge on the topic, but KMD proved himself Master of the Mic when he answered his own question — “How do we use vocabulary?” — with a 40-second freestyle. Enjoy the audio clip (after the jump), and a video of Kool Moe Dee answering another self-posed question: “What would the emcee be without the music?”

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Talking poetry and other turn-ons with Andrew Whiteman

By | April 26th, 2011 | 7 Comments
Andrew Whiteman

Broken Social Scene guitarist, O, Miami poet, and Jewel basher Andrew Whiteman -- photo from brokensocialscene.ca

In my ongoing mission to interview each of the 47 members in Canadian indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene, I spoke to guitarist Andrew Whiteman last month ahead of his two upcoming O, Miami poetry festival events at Purdy Lounge (Literary Death Match Thursday night and Broken Social Spam Friday night).

Besides being in at least three bands — Apostle of Hustle and AroarA in addition to Broken Social Scene — Whiteman is also a dedicated reader and writer of poetry. In our interview, we spoke about his upcoming book of poems, Tourism; Jewel, Billy Corgan, and other “horrible” poet-musicians; and the time he jammed in the Arctic with an experimental Inuit throat singer beneath a 90-foot glacier. (I know, that last one is so banal, but Whiteman insisted we talk about it.)

What can you tell me about Tourism?

It’s largely about being on tour, something people don’t really know about. It’s about my experiences touring [with Broken Social Scene] in 2010 … for Forgiveness Rock Record. We went to Europe three times, we went to Asia twice, North America a few times.

Did that tour stand out to you as good material over previous tours for any reason?

Well, you know, it’s good because it’s contained. It’s a specific time and a specific record. April 2010 to, say, February 2011. It’s nice. People can handle that. Poetry is difficult enough to have people read. You know what I mean? You put a frame on something and it’s kinda easier for people to take it or leave it.

Poetry isn’t exactly popular in our culture, which is something O, Miami is working to change. Do you think a book of poetry based on a touring rock band might reach a broader audience than most books of poetry?

It’s certainly possible. Jewel sold a lot of books [laughs]. I’m in the same camp by doing this as a lot of absolutely horrible musicians and worse poets, like Billy Corgan and Jewel and let’s see — who else? Ryan Adams. That’s not the exact company I’d like to keep. My point in mentioning those books is that they get printed. People do buy them.

I think poetry right now is pathetic. I mean, reading’s place in culture is highly diminished since TV, and poetry goes down with that. But within the reading world, I don’t think poetry has lost any sort of ratio as a piece of the pie.

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The O, Miami Epic at 18 days

By | April 18th, 2011 | No Comments

Eighteen days in, the ravens continue to multiply.

On April 1, we launched the O, Miami epic poem project, a quixotic attempt to create an ancient literary form — the epic — through the thoroughly modern phenomenon of open-source methodology. The idea came to me last minute as a fun and meaningful way to support the month-long O, Miami poetry festival, which we are covering on a dedicated off-shoot site called O, Beached Miami.

Building an epic poem one comment at a time, without moderation, guidance, censorship, or editing, seemed like a ridiculous idea 18 days ago. That it would be a flop and stall out at a decidedly unepic seven or eight lines seemed not only possible but likely.

But it was the parchment-thin chance that the O, Miami epic would catch on in spite of/because of its ridiculousness, its absurd loftiness, its arguably misplaced faith in the faceless Internet masses to breathe life into a dying (if not dead) literary form — it was this odds-off bet that made me decide to go for it. Not to mention the “Why the hell not?” factor.

Well, 18 days later, the poem stands at approximately 240 lines by 84 contributors.* With April halfway through, I’d like to take a moment now to survey the epic at this stage in its evolution.

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Thank God: A pipeline to James Franc,O

By | April 14th, 2011 | No Comments

The following was written by an O, Miami poetry festival intern named Fictitious Intern, not by O, Miami festival director P. Scott Cunningham. Definitely not.

James Franc,O is an actor from Pal,O Alt,O who has starred in such films as YO,ur Highness, HO,wl, and Eat, Pray, LO,ve. He’s also reading poetry in Miami on Friday, April 29, at the New World Center on Miami Beach as part of O, Miami’s closing weekend (buy tickets at www.nws.edu). According to O, Miami’s organizers, many of you have been emailing to request personal audiences with Sir Franc,O during his Miami visit, but unfortunately, due to Franc,O’s schedule, O, Miami director Scott Cunningham has informed us that is “impossible.” What O, Miami has done instead is to set up an email address — jamesfrancomiami@gmail.com — that will be used as a conduit to the star. The messages must abide by two simple rules:

1. It must be in the form of a poem. The poem doesn’t have to be a direct message per se to James. It could just be some poem you’ve written that you’d like him to read.

2. It can’t be more than 500 words (he’s a busy man)

Finally, Cunningham says he can’t guarantee that Franc,O will read the poems.

“I don’t have a button that makes Franc,O do stuff,” he said. “Though if I did . . . ” (FYI, the thought of having such a button really did cause Cunningham to drift off in a manner best expressed typographically by an ellipsis. It took loud clapping on my part to break him from his reverie, which I was reluctant to do, given the grin on his face.)

One thing Cunningham can guarantee is that all rule-abiding messages will be delivered into Franc,O’s beautiful hands.

Beached Miami is a partner of the O, Miami poetry festival. You can see all of our O, Miami coverage on O, Beached Miami.

Day of NOX, STACKS Tix Giveaway

By | April 7th, 2011 | No Comments

Silas Riener, mid NOX

Tonight, at the Moore Building in the Design District, poet Anne Carson will read from her latest work, NOX, a meditation on the death of Carson’s brother, as dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener perform to the music of Ben Miller. Those are the facts. The reality defies description. It will have to suffice to say that Anne Carson is as much priestess as poetess, that Mitchell and Riener can express volumes of emotion with a single ankle turn, and that Miller’s music seems the soundtrack of a dark night in the wilderness of a distant planet.

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of watching a run-through of the performance, one of two Carson collaborations in the O, Miami program. The cumulative impact of Carson’s voice (recorded and live), the dancers’ bodies, and the musician’s instruments all striving to make sense of enormous loss was one of the most intense things I’ve seen. I could not recommend this performance strongly enough. If you are going to attend one O, Miami event, this should be it. It is NOT too late to buy a ticket.

The other Carson piece, STACKS, a collaboration with choreographer Jonah Bokaer and sculptor Peter Cole, is on Friday night, also at the Moore Building. General admission tickets are still available for $30, but we have two tickets to give away to each of the first five people who scream STACKS! on our Facebook page (i.e., 10 tickets in total). [Update: All tickets have been claimed.]

Before you hie to Facebook, check out our photos from the NOX run-through. They give but an inkling of what we’re in for tonight.

NOX Rehearsal at Moore Building

By | April 7th, 2011 | 2 Comments

I took these photos on Wednesday during a rehearsal for NOX, a multi-discipline performance featuring poet Anne Carson, dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener, and musician Ben Miller. One of two Carson collaborations in the O, Miami poetry festival, NOX is tonight at the Moore Building. Learn more about it HERE.

Anne at Moore

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O, Miami O, pening Day and the O, Miami Epic

By | April 1st, 2011 | No Comments
O, Beached Miami Raven

What's with this raven? It's epic. 'Only this, and nothing more.'

You may be aware it’s April 1. The day means different things to different people, including, for some, nothing at all. To many, the first of April heralds the symbolic birth of spring, a day of melting snow, blooming flowers, and deer taking their first awkward steps. (In Miami, substitute “sunscreen” for “snow”, “onions” for “flowers”, and “iguanas” and “waddle” for “deer” and “steps”, respectively.)

For the Liberal Arts College set, April 1 ushers in “the cruellest month, breeding/ Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain” . . . or something to that effect.

Then, of course, it is to a lot of folk a day to tell a buddy his girlfriend’s been screwing his brother or your parents that you’re contemplating a sex change or your plastic surgeon that you’ve abandoned the SRS idea altogether . . . or something to that effect in the spirit of April Fool’s.

To Miami, this year, April 1 still means all (or none) of those things along with one other: The start of O, Miami, a month-long poetry festival with the impossible but inspired goal of getting all of the city’s 2.5 million residents to encounter a poem.

I’ve been pumped for O, Miami since it first bleeped across my radar in glorious fashion at last year’s epic Patti Smith Miami Book Fair reading. So when O, Miami director P. Scott Cunningham invited Beached Miami to partner with the festival, we accepted with a hearty “hell yes”.

It really was a no-brainer. O, Miami epitomizes the worthy part of Miami, the part we write about and photograph, the part we want to see flourish, the part that makes living in Miami worthwhile beyond the weather.

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Who’s in first? Frost and Kipling call the NL East

By | March 30th, 2011 | No Comments
Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra, baseball's accidental bard

Poetry and baseball have long been good friends. “I see great things in baseball,” Walt Whitman said of America’s pastime to be. Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat” is as ubiquitous as the game itself. Ogden Nash wrote “A Lineup for Yesterday”, a poem paying tribute to his favorite players in alphabetical order. I’m partial to the Dizzy Dean entry: “D is for Dean/The grammatical Diz/When they asked, Who’s the tops?/Said correctly, I is.”

In honor of fertile spring’s most sacred pitch and O, Miami’s righteous resolve to confront the masses with poetry in April, I’m bringing verse and baseball together once again in a preview of the Marlins and the rest of National League East before the 2011 season starts on Thursday. In addition to a brief team summary and projected record, I’ve assigned each team a verse (taken out of context, of course) befitting its place in the league. Batter up.

1. Philadelphia Phillies (101 – 61) – By reacquiring Cliff Lee, the Phillies put together a pitching rotation that is arguably (hardly) the greatest in baseball history. Will it be enough to compensate for an aging and oft-injured lineup? Methinks yes.

Jest send in your Chief an’ surrender –
it’s worse if you fights or you runs:
You may hide in the caves, they’ll be only your graves,
but you can’t get away from the guns!

— Rudyard Kipling, Screw-Guns

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