On Friday, in the Moore Building, a night after poetry, dance, and music came together in the suffocatingly intense performance of NOX, poetry, dance, and sculpture locked arms for STACKS, a collaboration between poet Anne Carson, Merce Cunningham Dance Company choreographer Jonah Bokaer, and sculptor Peter Cole.
On Thursday night, poet Anne Carson read from her latest work, NOX, a meditation on the death of a brother, as Merce Cunningham Company dancers Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener performed to the music of avant-garde instrumentalist Ben Miller. Staged at the Moore Building in Miami’s Design District, it was only the second ever performance of the NOX collaboration.
Abe’s Penny Live opened Saturday night at Artseen in Wynwood. The month-long exhibit invites local poets (first timers welcome) to respond in verse to the work of four local photographers, including Beached Miami photo editor Robby Campbell. You can learn more about the exhibit from my interview with Anna Knoebel, who launched the Abe’s Penny micromagazine with her sister in 2009.
The opening featured readings by poets Gabrielle Calvocoressi and Denise Duhamel. Below we have Calvocoressi reading “Boxers in the Key of M” from her Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist Apocalyptic Swing (2009)
Today at the Arsht Center’s Thomson Plaza, O, Miami organizers P. Scott Cunningham and Pete Borrebach declared all utterances, both written and spoken, in Miami-Dade County, for the month of April, poetic.
People often draw unflattering comparisons between Los Angeles and Miami. Traffic, corruption, vanity — both cities excel in all three. It is less common to hear someone cop to having a crush on the two metropolises. A poet, rarer still. But Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart (2005) and Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist Apocalyptic Swing (2009), isn’t your run-of-the-mill poetess. “I’m kind of in love with Miami,” the boxing aficionado, sports(ish) blogger, and award-winning poet told me.
In fact, she loves it so much she’s due in this weekend for the start of the O, Miami poetry festival. On Friday at Boater’s Grill, she and L.A. gallery owner Heather Taylor will host Eating Our Words, a combination of two wondrous phenomena: pork and poetry. Starting at 7 p.m., the event is a traditional Cuban pig roast with readings by poet Tracy K. Smith. Then, on Saturday, Calvocoressi and FIU professor-poet Denise Duhamel will do readings at the Abe’s Penny Live opening at ArtSeen Gallery in Wynwood. That event also starts at 7 p.m. and features photographs by Beached Miami’s own Robby Campbell. (Learn more about both events on omiami.org.)
I recently spoke to Calvocoressi about the “beautiful mess” that is Los Angeles, self-discovery as an erotic act, and what songs are making it onto her LAX to MIA playlist.
In an interview, you called Los Angeles a “poet’s paradise”. Why is that?
GC: Los Angeles is a city that continues to surprise me everyday. I think there’s a lot of similarities between Los Angeles and Miami. Both are cities that are constantly surprising. They’re truly international cities, and in that way they’re truly American cities because there are so many different people making this beautiful mess and in the midst of it making beautiful art. A lot of people have the wrong impression that there isn’t a real artistic and intellectual life in L.A. That’s absolutely not true. One of the things that I love — and I think this is true of Miami — is that there’s a sense that anything is possible and that you can dream in this incredible way. So in L.A., the one thing I found as an artist is that things like poetry and food and film and comics — all of this stuff can live together in an exciting way. I think it has something to do with the movie industry.
You can view the rest of this interview on Beached Miami, where it originally appeared on March 28.
Sam Winston is a man of many words. With the obsessiveness of a lexicographer and the perfectionism of a master craftsman, the London-based artist creates many of his sculptures, drawings, and books out of language itself, splicing up words, endowing once lifeless definitions with human vitality (and, in one case, a thirst for blood), turning the heavy volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary into airy origami, and arranging the emotions of Romeo and Juliet into blocks of text that somehow both muffle and amplify the force of Shakespeare’s tale of love, lust, and blood.
With work in the MoMA (New York), the Tate Galleries (London), and the Getty Research Institute (L.A.), Winston is heading to Miami in April for a three-week Fountainhead Residency, during which he will be interacting in unannounced but presumably cool ways with local poets. He also is scheduled to give a talk at the University of Miami on April 13 as part of the O, Miami poetry festival.
Last week, I video chatted with Winston about growing up dyslexic, Mayan butterflies, several of his works, and his favorite word. In the spirit of mixed-media, you will find photos, audio, and text below. Enjoy.
On the origin of his fascination with language
I grew up dyslexic, so my basic interest came from having a difficulty watching people use the writing system in a way I couldn’t use it. I didn’t really understand going from nouns — real-world objects — outward into articles and pronouns and adjectives. The further it went from the real world, and the more abstract the code got, the more I had difficulty with piecing all of these parts together. One of the things I found really helpful was using visual language, using images.
You can view the rest of this interview on Beached Miami, where it originally appeared on March 22.
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.
You can view the rest of this post on Beached Miami, where it originally appeared on March 16.
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].
You graciously lent us your poem, “On the Old Way”, for the “One Poem, One Community Project” we’re producing with our friends at Florida Center for the Literary Arts. How’d you choose that poem for us?
WSM: It’s a poem that seemed the right length to start with. But more importantly, it’s a poem about returning to a place I was very fond of, which seemed appropriate for my return to Miami.
The translation of the poem [into Spanish, also for the project] is by Alberto Blanco. How did this translation come about?
WSM: I’ve known Alberto for many years. We’ve done many translations of each other’s work. Our friendship goes back to when he interviewed Octavio Paz and me together. Spanish was my first love of the foreign languages I didn’t know very well. I love Mexico and Spain, and I’ve lived in both of them. There’s a link with Cuba too. My wife spent her adolescence in Cuba, though she was born in Argentina. We feel very fond of the language. It’s lovely to have things translated into Spanish.
You can view the rest of this interview on Beached Miami, where it originally appeared on March 11.
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 P. 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.
You can view the rest of this interview on Beached Miami, where it originally appeared on on December 15.