Abe’s Penny heads to Miami in April

By | March 16th, 2011 | 2 Comments
Abe's Penny (Issue 2.3)

Abe's Penny (Issue 2.3): A collaboration between photographer Gus Powell and writer Rachel Levitsky.

In the age of cloud computing and lightning-fast communication, Abe’s Penny offers the humble postcard. Every week, the Brooklyn-based publishing house sends its subscribers one with a photograph on one side and a snippet of text on the other. (A different photographer and writer collaborate each month.) Off-set printed on double-thick matte cardstock, four postcards make up an edition of the Abe’s Penny micro-magazine, which sisters Tess and Anna Knoebel launched in 2009.

While contemporary culture is lousy with hollow retroism (think Hipstamatic), this is no gimmick. By boiling down the magazine to its essentials, Abe’s Penny’s invites subscribers to contemplate the content of the postcard – a single image, a single piece of text – on a deeper level than they might a traditional, bloated mag. In the process, they often come to cherish the object itself.

“It’s nice in the middle of the week when they receive this tiny little bit of art and literature that can — I don’t know if it brightens up their day, but it definitely adds something to the experience of the day,” says Anna Knoebel, who I spoke to by phone on Tuesday.

“It’s not like sitting with an in-depth article in the New Yorker,” she says. “You know, it doesn’t necessarily resonate in the same way. You’re given the space to take it in as little or as much as you want to.”

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Interview with U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin

By | March 11th, 2011 | 5 Comments

The future Poet Laureate of the United States: W.S. Merwin as a young man

A prolific writer and translator of poetry, W.S. Merwin was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States of America on October 25, 2010. Because he lives in Hawaii, on an old pineapple plantation which he restored to its original rainforest state (the 83-year-old Buddhist ascribes to deep ecology), Merwin will not be making many public appearances during his tenure.

But on April 30, he will give a reading at the New World Center in Miami Beach to close the month-long O, Miami poetry festival. O, Miami organizers P. Scott Cunningham and Peter Borrebach recently spoke to Merwin over the phone in advance of his visit. This is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Mr. Merwin, what’s your knowledge of Miami? Have you been here before?

WSM: I have been there, several times. [Miami’s] a paradoxical town in a lot of ways. I know Fairchild [Tropical Botanic Garden] very well.

We made a conservancy of our land here [in Maui]. We live on 19 acres, where I’ve planted over 850 species of palm. We’ve even been credited with saving one species of palm, hypon indica. You know, the whole planet is being paved under tarmac and asphalt, traded back and forth, so I’ve always wanted to save a bit of the earth’s surface.

And that’s what brought you to Fairchild?

WSM: Yes, I’ve been to Fairchild a number of times, and they’ve given me seed, which is one link between the gardens here and there. But there are all kinds of tie-ups that are important. William Kline used to be at Fairchild before he came to National Tropical Botanical Garden [on the island of Hawaii].

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Sweat Records and O, Miami launch new sites

By | March 10th, 2011 | No Comments

Congrats to two of Miami’s best — Sweat Records and O, Miami — on the (intentionally?) synchronized launch of their new badass websites today. The perfectly named sweatshopmiami.com is “a custom-built online web store to sell local music, books, fashion, and gifts to customers around the world. The site will create revenue for local artists, act as their mail order ‘back end’ (relieving the artists of chores such as packing, shipping, and billing), and create a centralized place where the true size and breadth of Miami’s creative output becomes undeniable.” Good for the artists, yes, but a game changer for Miami en general. Where else can you get Otto Von Schirach’s “Pukology” 2×7″, Jai-Alai Magazine #10, and a sexy red Churchill’s tank top? Before today, the answer was nowhere.

The official website for the O, Miami poetry festival, omiami.org is a stark, minimal beauty designed by artist David Reinfurt. The site has been up for a while but is now stocked with everything you need to know about O, Miami, “a hurricane of poetic activity” featuring James Franco, U.S. Poet Laureate W.S. Merwin, Anne Carson, rapper Jean Grae, and Broken Social Scene’s Andrew Whiteman, to name just a few of the amazing folk involved in the month-long verse fest that starts April 1.

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O, Miami seeking bus poem recommendations

By | January 5th, 2011 | 2 Comments

I received a University of Wynwood newsletter this morning beseeching Miamians (that’s you) to recommend poems to place in Miami’s transit system during the O, Miami poetry festival in April. The initiative, called Poetry in Motion, started in 1992 when the Poetry Society of America partnered with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Now the PSA and O, Miami — whose director, Scott Cunningham, we interviewed last month — are teaming up to make your commute a bit more poetic (as if Miami’s busses weren’t sentimental enough … ). Check out the newsletter below for more details. And here’s my verse recommendation, which I think captures your average public commute (the waiting, the slow crawl) rather well.

“I’m waiting for my man,
Twenty-six dollars in my hand.
Up to Lexington, 1-2-5,
Feel sick and dirty, more dead than alive.”

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Miami Poets, Stand Up and Be Counted!

By | December 15th, 2010 | 4 Comments

The goal of the O, Miami poetry festival is to have each of Miami-Dade County’s 2.6 million residents encounter a poem during this coming April (the cruelest month). It is a lofty goal, to be sure, and to get the ball rolling the University of Wynwood, a fake university with the real mission of weaving contemporary poetry into the fabric of Miami’s everyday life, announced the Miami Poet Census yesterday. UW, which is producing the festival with Knight Foundation funding, wants all of the city’s poets — published or not — to give their names, email addresses, zip codes, and a snippet of verse that says something about them as versifiers. Earlier today I spoke to UW director Scott Cunningham about the O, Miami census and why poetry isn’t like a bowl of oatmeal, among other things.

In your TEDx Miami lecture, you called poetry useless (see below). If it is useless, then why does Miami need a poetry festival?

Even though poetry is useless, I think people still care about it. There’s a lot of things in our lives that are probably useless — practically speaking — that we care about anyway. I’ve been out there doing the poetry thing, planning events and talking about it, for a couple of years now, and pretty much everyone I talk to says something along the lines of, “Oh, I really like poetry. I used to write it, but I haven’t really kept up with it.” Most people have some experience with poetry that is important to them, but for whatever reason it’s been buried and placed in some compartment in their head, which is The Past. So we wanted to design a festival that was specifically catered to people who care about poetry but would probably not come to a poetry reading.

In organizing the festival, have you run into people with competing philosophies about poetry, people who don’t necessarily consider it useless or who don’t think it is meant for mass enjoyment?

Yes and no. Amongst the poets I know here in Miami, there’s definitely competing philosophies. Even here in the office, we argue all the time. I would love for more people to argue about poetry. That’s not the problem. I would love for someone to come along with a competing philosophy because that would mean someone else cares about it. What we’re battling is not aesthetics. It’s people not even thinking about it. It’s not that they are anti-poetry. It’s just not something they even think about, because you don’t encounter it in daily life like you do with film and music and especially art in Miami. These other art forms, you can’t avoid them. Poetry is kind of hidden. I believe it is there — that’s the whole point of this festival. We’re just trying to shed a light on it.

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