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)
Los Angeles-based poet Gabrielle Calvocoressi is headed east to Miami this week for the O, Miami poetry festival.
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.
O Miami, like a river or a boulevard we begin somewhere,/ but/ the sun’s orange glow matching the orange pedestrian glow, picadillo chest hair singed, a saltwater contact high/
signals our March through April so we May/ flow yet no floe,/ of an orange world, in kissimmee, on the way to the magic kingdom/ underneath the sluiceways, the rivers and roadways of quiet resistance, the refugees’ riverine cries/ and rests. Again, a toehold is the last and first bleary memory/ and the hull where I saw you unmaking yourself– O leotard bacon rock candy light/ though the nights are neon we pee on the beach, extending our reach/ while we sway like the trees and dance in the streets/ brass blasting the crowd, . . . [your turn]
. . . pride in the synchronized shuffle — drunk on hope and superstition/ while packing up your loft for the move to Brooklyn, that Eagles song you hate ominously repeats in your head: “You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave”…/ taking in all of the beautiful Miami beats we move our feet to the sounds and rythms and feel the city’s hypnotisms/ playing the station of the sun, on repeat, the burning waters of the biscayne summer sings/ and all this felt as pointless as wishing for peace in the Middle East, but “lanterns” burn, all kinds./ beat-hearts have to jive forward – and we do, silly or prodical./ A city so methodical with its people trying to be so logical, perhaps its biological but take the time to read the daily periodical. A city filled with so much art, poetry, music, film and everything your heart can desire yet so very few are concious and aware enough to admire. Take a minute and stop and smell the flowers it’ll fulfill your days every hour./
The shadow of the morning sun makes an imprint on the tiled floor of my studio. Outside I hear the hustle of the buses, the cars as they stop to yield at the roundabout with the pink snail in the middle of a grass and flower filled circle. The birds tweet as the sun gets brighter and the sky turns bluer. Miami waves as the day commences./ We wave back and shift lanes across highway built Over/ Town once called Colored,/ past History reduced to exit signs./ Say hi to Ms. Tuttle/ holding them off 2A,/ Mr. McDuffie, upstairs in 6B,/ And Black Caesar relieving boats in the Bay./ Like it is, like it was. We still wish, just because. Like a fish deep in scuzz. Hit the streets, find a buzz./ On summer afternoons, stormy skies,/ violent and fleeting/ cleansing the streets and the spirit,/ replenishing the diminished, dreaming aquifer/ We return to our moment of birth, We return to our moment of death. We return to sing of beauty both present and past. Like a smarting wound, we long to return to our original source: vast vast ocean, give birth to our collective voice./ Dear Barbara, I really didn’t need that box of cake./ hey Miami stop being built of tiny cellphones I am in love with you and oh Miami our boat is leaking no I didn’t get the text about your regrets Miami let’s just hold our breath and see what happens to each others hearts/ All I really needed, Barbara, was your baby’s first corn flake./ spring break, I did not lift my shirt for you,/ you lifted it yourself & put the shopping mall down just a bit to the left of where it was before/ by the Miami Seaquarium where my father used to frequently see the five dolphins who played Flipper/ and the one child who played me. O Miami, I’m a — I’m, oh, a rock light, or a salt-gray boat/ with a salt-and-peppered skipper at the helm. Miami, who are you?/ A mangrove maze, a pirouetting weather system.
Eye level to the earth, humid womb of coral, mosquitos, and manatees/ Oh, Miami! You are the cocaine-dream of Miami./ You are the sweltering sweat of long distance/ and short-distance-housing,/ working with the dream of working./ captain heart, you diagram of bull swallows/ O how you disarm/ ply me with your senselessness/ pillage me with your dreams/ stand me in a corner/ and do unto me as you will/ Miami bedsprings the seismograph
and turns to leave—/ as I exhale what was borrowed/ from that last kiss/ I am freed from the distortion/ promises falsely provide/ Del Rey and Boca/ sister city opposites/ Heroin and Little Haiti/ across the river from the shining first/ of the sixth burrow/ Stacking halfway houses
on the backs/ of the relapsed./ Sunsets that watercolor the skyline for the menagerie of eyes who flew, swam, drove to see the exhibit of the sun/ Make it a habit/ Like a nun/ To return/ As one/ Until the festival is done/ O, Miami… you’re so fun./ and the O’Miamis, and Art Basels and Ultras and Vice Miami’s that leave behind nothings and lure with them the best of us only leaving us wanting more./ o moreami–! o mammon–! say hello to my little anathema/ Why Miami?/ My Miami./ No, she’s mine, swallowed my first breath and likely my last/ My Ami/ The one who held me close to her shuddering bosom when the tight swirl of winds came early in the morning,/ and held my hand in the rubble in 1926, or 1992, or 1995/ or whenever the next one slides from the Horn of Africa./ The only reason I know the Cape Verde Islands is that they/ stand between that nursery of storms and you, Miami./ And when the green blobs pinwheel and Max/ Mayfield talks of what might be, and when/ plywood creaks as screws bite into cinder in preparation,/ And my hands are sliced by serrated panels sliding into place, I wonder what it must have been like/ with no warning/ for those who came before/ They call you Holiday, I call you Home/ these days it seems/ ADventure
is just around the corner/ Like the themesong from a cartoon created by Aristotle,/ like an organon, an organism,/ cry like a spasm, city like a cotton-candy orgasm/ all stuck on you, pink sunset brew/ since daddy said We’re going to Miami, and the child said It’s not your ami, daddy, it’s mommy’s ami/ Remerged through Atlantis Bimini Road Ridge — sea-salt suckled anew — Fool Moon holy coconut milk drunkards, phantom fairchild pirate-poseurs kneel repentant, chant: “Oh manatees’ Miracle Marjory, spiral our Circle, give Grass-River rebirth, Tequesta ecstasy!”/ city of Latin sinners/ Caribbean saints
salty flesh barely covered/ swails reeking of dog poo
motley medley of patchwork skin/ crack a Corona and dip your skin in/ she's up way to early no/ makeup yet i thot its doesnt/ the sewage we steep in/ Everglades stew we sleep in/ hovering in seaside canals/ sand pumped on her shore/ Miami, you Whore!/ FYI: I hate beer, especially Corona./ sand, salt, tar, wood, glass, rain, rust/ The big city cloaked by warmth and joy of climate and economy prevailing as the monument of intellect over instinct with reality not perceived emphasizing that quantum theory is the only truth./ It was that kind of place and that kind of night. The kind of place growing awkward in its new makeup. The kind of night when proving your having been there was valued more than your even being noticed. Although it was nice to make your aquaintance, I will, like rain from muggy air, wring-out the little fidelity left of you. Born yours, we bards./ y ahora vamos pa Playa Giron (en sueño)/ From here to the ends of I am me I rustle my intensity and meekness to the open-closed sky, O Me O My O My_Am_Me./ Captains? slap them. Them, rapping maps in flaps of clapping laps. Leaving traps by happenstance to take a stance on scantly clad dads of lads. Scnaps on pants. Panting Lance in advance of glancing Blanche? Grab a branch?/ Sapphire glow amid an ocean, dropped gem from belt of stars, water, sand, and green and grain. . . since the fifties I have held your heat . . ./ And I say again,/ “One thousand nights are not enough/ to see my city’s soul.
Calle Ocho hums its spicy song, South/ Beach never closes its eyes, Coconut/ Grove hides beneath its canopy, an artist’s abode.”/ meeting place of mismatched souls,
where the lonely are not alone/ Yet from time to time it is better to be alone/ For one may truly appreciate Miami in her splendor/ When with others, one is so oblivious of the nature adjoining them/ Passing by the streets without even a fleeting look/ As if the streets are the very rubbish that lies on her hackneyed concrete pavements/ And then, one proceeds to carp about how there’s nothing to see or do in Miami/ And before their friend can even respond, they’ve boarded a plane and are long gone/ But, if one just takes a second and opens their eyes/ They will understand that Miami has a copious amount of sights to see and sounds to hear/ That is after all doing something, correct?/ from afar your waves soothe the soul,embracing the fury of restless hearts/ Old Miami, how sweet and bitter thy are/ Tourists versus Miamians/ Celebrities versus the unknown/ Wealth versus poverty/ Gunshows versus gun-buy-backs/ Death versus life/ Crime versus freedom/ But whichever side you choose to walk on/ Miami is home to us all/ Who sees what sea may part our ways that use to part before/ A land in which our history came from the sound of crashing shore/ What once was loud and full of life stands only in the dark/ To a reign in which the tears have shown the tyranny in its’ mark/ As past has shown from oppression’s own and Nazi’s deathly grip/ That peoples’ own come to their own and settle all but quit/ But what has done has done so much as from a gift from God/ To change the route to which we travel to travel much abroad/ And where to land our ships ashore and our feet kicked with sand/ And call this place a place to live while seemingly unplanned/ For those brave few who faced the fear and fear itself was cast/ Now we can call O’Miami ours with the future of the past/ where different cultures merge and sounds/ harmonize to the rhythms they create/ City with amaizing Beaches or B(?)(?)ches?/ City where Wishes come true or Wi(?)(?)hes are real?/ For Homework find the (?)./ oh Miami, where spanglish is your language and everyone understand it does not matter nothing as long you know how to say can i have un cortadito….oh mi miami/ Far from being the olam haba/ Still with the wings extended, leaving the sky above appeared a picture thousand times drawn in my dreams,/ My feet lay upon your soil and suddenly this sense of belonging that no longer inevitably escapes from my being;/ may be your smell penetrating my lungs, may be your waters so warm as those, perhaps the majesty of a sun setting behind your towers, those I used to dreamed about,/ As it may be your unconquered and unknown horizon, contrary to that one they made us believe was sleeping behind the shore;/ But certainly calling you home gave me the freedom, the air, the sun and also the ability to draw thousands of pictures now on my own./ -such fretful bodies arrive, portraying naivety./ Skins adamantly accept the down-cast ‘cure,’/ this shrieking, seeking, paradoxical beating./ To voyage on, historically unseen-/ through the sun-drenched black-hole existence/ O Meeyahmee, way out in tidbits at the end of your earth,/ your vices redouble in mirrored factory stairs./ The brightness is something for helicopter photos./ O Miami, I’ve seen the trailers for your parties,/ your shrieking white hotels, the funny jade/ of your poolwater. I’ve seen your teledramas, Miami, and I too have wanted your women./ But inward, Miami, where the concrete persists/ in its fantasy of neon–if Batista didn’t build you,/ it must have been his friends–/ the storm shutters stay eminently closed.
Tell me about yourself, Mayaimi./ Put on your sunglasses and tell me en SAP/ that Tony Bourdain doesn’t know the half of it./ Tell me, Miami, of the tiny little misfits you know
who haven’t said a thing about LeBron./ I want every single Latin Syndicate haircut,/ and as many Tide and Colgate samples/ as Calle Ocho can afford, y dos–no, tres!–arepas./ What is it about heatstroke and hurricanes, Miami,/ that makes us all such savage romantics for you?/ Well, who doesn’t love the bludgeon of August air,/ the salty plastic chairs of every minor patio,/ miscreant limbs, glittering, and lazy, and fiddling/ with a phone, maybe? What is it with sweat/ that makes love seem so harmless? The promise of mixture, Miami./ Isn’t that what you hold in your neon green light?/ Y pienzo en voz, en tu, en ti – Miami/ and I think of you and only you/ The way you’ve brought me up from the earth,/ as a child growing up and as a woman now./ My legs sticking to the leather seats in the summer heat/ when I was just a little girl and you were my mother,/ the heat beating down, the traffic wretched/ as my father drove us in our yellow WV bug down the constantly flooded Sweetwater streets./ My legs, much longer and stronger now, that take me through the imaginary tunnels of this city sometimes called Magic, other time called rude, incestuous, unwelcoming, unloved, restless, overwhelming./ Pero como me encantas!/ Yes, I’ve developed deep roots from the beauty and pain of living here – mi ciudad, el lugar donde naci y creci, Miami./ Born, raised, thrown into whirlwinds, conquering storms./ I leave you soon, long after the harrowing fights I had/ once believing you had nothing to offer me/ and that I had even less to offer you./ How wrong we both were, always realizing too late./ i don’t think a shit of you, miami/ i think of life, just being life/ i think of a place, just being a place/ a place where we/ ingest things/ to make us/ to make us/ your sun is bigger though/ it blinds the most noble/ it blinds the most/ unaware/ but you are you, miami/ you will eat us, miami/ i love this poem/ but you will eat us/ an this poem/ will not be left/ y que se joda, el que se joda/ I don’t understand/ I walk the sunny streets in the Gables/ But I rarely hear a word/ There is chatter around me/ But I rarely hear a word/ A visual surround
Bright light, reflected from all sides/ Brilliant colors
Blue, tan and gold/ Butterflies dancing/ Flower to flower/ Cruising the light/ Against a background/ Of cool shade/ loud voices drowning in the heat/ like lobsters screaming in a pot/ roasting in the eternal sun,/ ethics boil away/ leaving dried greed,/ caked over preening ego./ so I think to myself,/ I’m way too tired to do this/ I long for you when I’m away,/ But when I’m near I say no way./ Your like a drug that I’m addicted to,/ Would I be more sane if it’t weren’t for you?/ I can’t stop, I keep coming back/ Your like a hangover that won’t go away/ But I can’t wait to do it all over again./ O Miami look what you’ve done to me/ I’ll never be the same you see/ Your bright sunshine and brilliant colors have me blinded/ I’m lost in this crazy sea of life/ And when my life goes no longer, when my eyes see no further, I will remember you as you are everything I need to live./ with jelly fishes roaming free,/ feeling no immediate misery./ we walk the crabby shoreline/ stepping over dying chandeliers/ and bleached bags of/ Doritos/ Breathing in briny stench while picking out the blurry/ melon-colored moon/ smudged with clouds/ An impossibly huge O/ Miami/ Multiple cultures, Multiple languages…/ ONE season./ A true Miamian laughs in the face of a hurricane/ and cries over what it leaves behind: NO A/C!!/ Hurricane Season —-/ No school +1/ No work +1/ hurricane parties +1/ flashlight wars +1/ No A/C -1/ No A/C -1/ No FP&L -1/ No A/C -1/ No A/C -1/ No A/C -1/ Parmalat milk -1/ No A/C -1/ No TV, radio -1/ No A/C -1/ No A/C -1 …/ 1 year passes…YAY! HURRICANE SEASON!!!/ A true Miamian has selective memory and math skills./ for really what I think of/ is the air conditioning/ you feel in a Publix aisle/ where I wonder about the art of/ floating along the intra-/ coastal./ A cloud-/ moving, reflected, moving,/ I am broken by a manatee/ O Follow me/ I am mnemosyne/ Wandering free/ daydream downstream/ in Meeyahmee./ O’ Miami is so fun… fun in the sun is all is done by the young./ while the old spend their days/ laboriously crawling across town/ their wrinkled bosoms/ scraping the scalding pavement/ But is there not charm in the edges of their crinkled eyes?/ Just as the sun rises over Ocean and 8,/ The young fall asleep,/ While the old become awake./ amidst the gaze/ sun-kissed woman/ soft, amber eyes/ cursed diamond ring/ friendly disguise/ [friendly disguise]:/ a solid body cast made of gold;/ solid black pupils lusting for stimulus;/ There’s a store on the corner./ At night, the clerk locks the front door/ and takes orders/ from behind a thick pane of bulletproof glass./ Vagrants and deviants/ form a tidy line/ and make their purchases one by one,/ selecting blunt wraps and snack cakes/ with transparent lust. Freaks (bags of flesh quaking with mania) circle the line./ Their voices tremble as though fastened to an earthquake./ They bob and weave in and out, between and around each customer, attempting to scavenge./ Each slithers like an asp/ continually ascending and descending/ a flag pole of focused, droning desire./ Their fingernails look rotten as do their faces./ I’m third in line when a junkie begins to berate the tiny clerk behind the bulletproof glass:/ “Eres un pingüino!”/ His taunting is mild at first/ but quickly bubbles over into hysteria./ “Un pingüino!”/ He begins to cackle and waddle./ He continues to do so until I reach the window./ The bags under my eyes are rich and voluptuous./ My eyes themselves are tiny buttholes./ not another trainwreck;/ an open sore, a waddle home/ the salty taste of a birthright/ filtered into tiny pieces/ beaches crack under the weight/ of the many who see the sights/ but fail to see the beauty/ dancers mimic the clapping/ of waves crashing into the seawall/ home, a false avenue/ shore, a battered lover/ I’ve spattered life all over/ this tiny-eyed metropolis/ & I’m drunk on the spit
the surf has soaked me in/ a time will come
when the television/ will sing another tune [your turn]