Steven Karl on Miami
Many imagine Miami to be an endless Spring Break inhabited by PED bodies lounging about on sandy beaches under a lazy sun. The ambiance consisting of nothing but palm trees (tho’ technically not a tree), club music, luxury hotels, and shiny condos with shiny people entering and exiting. Or, maybe you imagine all the drugs, cocaine in particular, right? A little over three years ago, as I prepared to relocate from Manhattan to Miami, many of my friends jokingly mentioned the TV show Miami Vice, the entertainer Will Smith, and the awful market collapse. While for some (residents and tourists alike) Miami is a fun city, it is also a city in constant political and ecological flux, it is a geography of polarizing extremes—from disproportionate wealth to abject poverty (see “Miami’s Median Income Is Second Lowest in America; Poverty Is Second Highest”). Situated among these tensions exists much of Miami’s literary scene, everything from soapbox poets to invitation-only author parties.
As I write this, the month of March will conclude with the Ultra Music Festival (yes, more drugs, more drinking, more dancing) and April will begin with its annual O, Miami poetry festival. O, Miami is a month-long event created by P. Scott Cunningham that carries a simple mission: expose every Miami inhabitant to a poem during the month of April. To this end, you will find poems printed on popsicles, walking and kayak-specific workshops, and even a Miami River cruise where the city’s history and landmarks are reinvented/reimagined in verse. Cunningham also runs an occasional reading series at the The Besty hotel where the likes of Mark Bibbins, Bianca Stone, Ben Pease, Patricia Lockwood, and many others have participated in readings.
A relatively new, socially engaged reading series is Reading Queer. They have the tendency to curate reading and workshop related events, including readers such as Julie Marie Wade and L. Lamar Wilson. Books & Books is the local independent bookstore and a good venue to catch both local and out-of-town writers like Denise Duhamel, Jaswinder Bolina, and Andrew Durbin.
The University of Miami’s MFA program hosts a reading series called IBIS. This reading series runs concurrently with the Fall and Spring semesters, and features students and nationally recognized writers such as Barbara Jane Reyes and Mary Ruefle. In addition to the University of Miami, F.I.U. holds occasional events featuring faculty and former students (Campbell McGrath, John Dufresne, Richard Blanco), and the Center for Literature and Writing@ Miami-Dade College features both readings and workshops.
Every November Miami is home to the Miami Book Fair International, which features readings/panels across the genres. This past November we witnessed readings and/or panel discussions by Claudia Rankine, Saeed Jones, Don Share, Solmaz Sharif, Wendy Xu, CA Conrad, Hannah Gamble, Lynn Melnick and tons of other immensely talented writers. At the Book Fair’s authors’ party, poet Sarah Trudgeon even managed to get a photo with author and Roots drummer, Questlove. Questlove, however, did not attend the poetry readings.
Small Press Publishing & Noted Florida Books
Miami is frequently referred to, as “the gateway to Latin America” so it should not come as a surprise that there is a vibrant Spanish language and translation scene here. Miami’s premier small press, Jai Alai Books, recently published two new titles that are in both English and Spanish: Suicide by Jaguar by David Landsberger, and Anoche soñé que era un DJ / Last Night I Dreamt I Was A DJ by Frank Báez. Jai Alai also publishes a literary journal by the same name. Recently, Exile Books, a pop-up artist’s bookstore has made their home in Miami.
Although, this scene report is Miami-centric, I’d be remiss not to mention Sand Paper Press located in Key West. Key West is also home to the annual Key West Literary Seminar. Like most cities, Miami is in constant change with writers always coming and going, so here’s a very brief run-down of primarily small press books waving the Sunshine Poetics banner (including Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Sarasota, and Tallahassee): Aaron Their’s The Ghost Apple, Caroline Cabrera’s The Bicycle Year, Philip Muller’s Attack of the Earth Mothers, Curtis Purdue’s You Will Island, Alexis Orgera’s Dust Jacket, and Nick Sturm’s How We Light. 2015 will also bring us new books by Carrie Lorig and Sandra Simonds.
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