On Friday night, in a tent beside No Name Bay, Tracy K. Smith read poems from her upcoming book, Life On Mars (due out in May), to a crowd sated on roasted pig. Held at Boater’s Grill in Key Biscayne’s Bill Baggs State Park, the placid pairing of pork and poetry was part of the popular Eating Our Words series, started in Los Angeles by poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi and gallery owner Heather Taylor, who were both in town for the start of O, Miami.
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.