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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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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