O, Miami | An Interview with P. Scott Cunningham
This month is the inaugural O, Miami Poetry Festival down in South Florida. We sat down with founder P. Scott Cunningham to learn a little about what he’s up to with over 30 events throughout the month. This week is the home stretch and heavy hitters including actor/Renaissance man James Franco and Poet Laureate of the United States W.S. Merwin are coming to town. Read further. Allography asks Scott some probing questions.
O, Miami is getting some fantastic press. There have been a bunch of interviews and features on you and the festival. Can you point out a couple of the better ones, cause I’m pretty sure this one is going to be crap?
Let’s get to know you first. P. Scott Cunningham. Poet. Leader. Man of Many Hats. What is your motivating domesticated light beer and/or boxed wine brand?
I definitely played a little “slap the bag” back at Wesleyan, though I’m not proud of it. These days, I’ll pretty much drink whatever light beer you put in front of me, though if I had to choose one mass market domestic I’d go Coors Light. I think it’s pretty incredible that they made a beer that has no taste whatsoever – it’s impressive when you think about it. I’m also trying to get them to release “Coors Heavy.” Here’s my BrO, Miami poem about it:
The sun is the bottom
of a beer can resting
on the glass table of the world.
Coors Light? Nah bro,
You’re on a Poetry Desert Island. Who would you want to describe the desert island?
Probably Elizabeth Bishop. She’s pretty much unbeatable when it comes to describing the tropics.
Believe it or not, I’d probably bring the largest Norton Anthology of Poetry I could find. I couldn’t make it with just one poetic voice in my head.
First round of Poetry Fantasy. You have the third pick. Girl from your office picks Shakespeare first cause she likes roses, then the fat kid from 4th grade picks Homer cause he think’s he wrote 300. Who do you take?
Which cryptozoological animal would you most like to have as your sidekick?
Softball question. You know very well that it’s a tie between Mansquito and Sharktopus.
Speaking of. Your number two, Pete Borrebach has significant hair…
Yes. His hair is an epic poem.
Ok. Let’s move on to O, Miami. What is it and why doesn’t it have a wikipedia page?
Are you supposed to make your own Wikipedia page? That seems self-serving to me. When it’s important enough, the world will respond with wiki. I’m patient.
The mission for O Miami is for everyone in Miami to encounter a poem in the month of April. Have you considered kidnapping the mayor?
No, I’m not sure that would do anything for us. And since our partner Knight Foundation and the mayor have a great relationship, I’m not sure that would be the best decision for the long run.
Is it called Poetry because everyone is trying to be Edgar Allen?
This is easily the worst question I’ve ever been asked. And not in a “Mansquito is bad” way. It’s just a terrible question.
(Editor’s note: Scott is a friend, so this sort of a aggravation is acceptable and encouraged.)
Perfect. Miami itself is somewhat of a blank canvas. One of our favorite places on the earth. People either love it, hate it, respect it, but everyone has a strong opinion of it. There is a nascent arts and cultural scene that is burgeoning through the moneyed gloss and creating an intense and singular identity. I guess what I’m trying to ask is, do you think Miami has mermaids?
Liz Tracy and Jessica Gross strike me as women who potentially turn into mermaids when submerged. So yes.
As to Miami, it’s a blank canvas because we’re so optimistic here. We really believe in the future of this place, which I credit to the creative people who live and work here and to the Knight Foundation for funding a bunch of ambitious, community-based projects during the last five years. Think about how many people would have left Miami during the recession if Knight hadn’t started the Arts Challenge at the same time. I don’t want to name them, but off the top of my head I can think of seven extremely important people in the arts scene who absolutely would have been forced to bail on Miami without Knight’s involvement. And they’ve gotten other investors excited, too. We just need to stay focused on keeping this momentum going, which means staying focused on what really matters: community. Financial support is necessary and fantastic, but it’s the doing that matters. With or without funding, you have to take that risk of being an artist in the world.
What’s a Miami poem?
Want to read a real Miami poem? Variations on a Text by Vallejo by Donald Justice. Justice went to Beach High and UM. He’s got other Miami poems too. The fact that there’s not a statue to this guy somewhere, or at least a plaque with his words on it, is dumb.
Any final thoughts?
People should come to Wednesday, April 27th’s Poetry & Poesia event. It’s a dual language reading at the New World Center with Forrest Gander and Victor Rodriguez-Nunez. I realize those names mean nothing to you, dear reader, but can you just trust me for once that this evening will blow your mind with its beauty? $10 general admission; $5 for students.
Look out for more O, Miami related posts this week. Allography will be involved!