'O, Miami' Celebrates Verse With A Poem Per Person

Originally published on April 14, 2011 12:28 pm

Miami is going all out for National Poetry Month. A festival called O, Miami is trying to get every resident in Miami-Dade County — that's 2.5 million people — to "encounter" a poem in April.

To get that kind of reach, festival organizers had to think beyond bookstores and libraries. "We wanted to push past that, and put poems on buses, put poems on banners behind airplanes, put poems in restaurants," says the festival's founder, Miami poet Scott Cunningham. "It's very tempting as a teacher to delve into finger-waving with poetry. I think sometimes we lose the fact that it's supposed to be pleasurable."

So Miami is taking poetry off the page. One artist is secretly sewing poems into thrift-store clothes. Another is flying an airplane over Miami, dropping hundreds of poems (printed on eco-friendly material) on the city. Curators for the How Pedestrian video series are going up to people on the street and asking them to read poems on camera. The city has secured some big names for some old-fashioned readings, including former poet laureate W. S. Merwin and polymath celebrity James Franco.

The Miami Herald is holding a haiku-writing contest based on South Florida news headlines. The winner of the contest gets tickets to that Franco reading, publication in the Herald and broadcast on WLRN. Here are some of the newsy haikus submitted so far:

The Governor's pen
Far mightier than his sword
Cuts fat, flesh, blood, bone.
- Phil Harley

Classroom news clippings
Fish swim in toxic water
Stapled wall of tears
- Nanette Avery

Truth torpedo launched
See Sheen's "winning" melt-down tour
Tiger blood required
- Michelle Lopez

The Herald welcomes submissions in English, Spanish or Creole — as long as poets adhere to the five-seven-five rule: five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line, five syllables in the last. Here's a recent Spanish submission about Cuban singer Pablo Milanes:

Pablo Milanes
hace nueva confesion:
Now!: Liberacion!
(translation: Pablo Milanes / makes a new confession: / Now!: Liberation!)
- Mercedes Eleine Gonzalez

Those poems were all submitted by Floridians, but the contest is open to everyone, so consider that a challenge. Need a hint?

"My advice would be to keep it lighthearted and concentrate on the cleverness of it," Cunningham says. "Something that has a little bit of heart to it."

Aspiring poets are enthusiastically taking the bait. As submitter Mirta Oliva writes:

The haiku challenge
What a chance for those who dream
Of writing in verse.

If you're feeling inspired to submit a poem about South Florida news, visit the Miami Herald site to learn more about the haiku contest. And though NPR isn't having a contest, we hope you'll share your NPR News-inspired poems in the comments section below.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


It's National Poetry Month. And to celebrate, we're going now to Florida's Miami Dade County.

MIRTA OLIVA: The haiku challenge was a chance for those who dream of writing in verse.


And remember, Haiku is a deceptively simple form of poetry. You just put five syllables on the first line, seven syllables on the second line, five syllables on the third, you're done.

MONTAGNE: Organizers have invited the audience of the Miami Herald and NPR member station WLRN to submit haikus inspired by headlines. Here's one by Miami's Michelle Lopez.

MICHELLE LOPEZ: Truth torpedo launched. See Sheen's winning melt-down tour. Tiger blood required.

INSKEEP: The festival's founder is Scott Cunningham.

SCOTT CUNNINGHAM: It's very tempting as a teacher to delve into finger waving with poetry. And I think sometimes we lose the idea that it's supposed to be pleasurable.

MONTAGNE: In addition to the haiku contest, judges are including poetry readings in their court proceedings.

INSKEEP: An artist is sewing poems into clothing for sale on thrift store racks.

MONTAGNE: And some celebrities will be doing readings, including former poet laureate, W.S. Merwin, and celebrity polymath, James Franco. The winning haiku writer gets tickets to see Franco read.

INSKEEP: And here's another haiku contender, a political piece from Phil Harley of Cutler Bay.

PHIL HARLEY: The governor's pen, far mightier than a sword, cuts fat, flesh, blood, bone.

MONTAGNE: Now here's Mercedes Eleine Gonzalez(ph).


MONTAGNE: That's translates roughly to: Pablo Milanes makes a new confession: Now, Liberation. Milanes is a Cuban singer who recently shook-up Miami with his comments criticizing the Castros.

INSKEEP: The haikus we've heard were all written by Floridians, but the contest is open to everyone. So can consider this a challenge. And if you need some tips, here's festival organizer Scott Cunningham.

CUNNINGHAM: My advice would be to keep it light-hearted, and concentrate on the cleverness of it. And yeah - and then something that has a little bit of heart to it.

MONTAGNE: The link to submit to the Miami Herald's haiku contest is at npr.org.


INSKEEP: And Renee, I understand you've got a haiku there.

MONTAGNE: I do, indeed. And thank you for writing it.


MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

INSKEEP: And I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.