O, Miami brings poetry to the city…virtually
Adjusting to the current climate of “Staying at Home,” the founders and organizers of O, Miami Poetry Festival have taken their yearly event, held every April in honor of National Poetry Month, virtual. They’re calling it O, Miami O, nline and using the old American Online (AOL) logo as a fun throwback pun.
Still in the midst of planning the event when canceled events began popping up, Founder Scott Cunningham made the tough decision to go virtual.
“We knew it was the right thing to do. We made the decision on March 11, which was slightly ahead of the news cycle, but not by much,” he said, realizing that the situation was getting more serious by the day.
Even tougher for the O, Miami team was breaking the news to those traveling to Miami for the festival from outside the country.
“I think the hardest part was telling artists from Cuba and England that we wouldn’t be able to bring them over and execute these projects that we’d been working on for months,” Cunningham said.
Another challenge was re-planning the event in three weeks so they could plan to start on April 1 as planned. “We scrambled to get the schedule together. It was fun, but also a lot of work,” Cunningham said. He and his organizers learned how to navigate new software programs, booked new artists and redesigned all their collateral materials.
The schedule includes all new events especially since O, Miami is all about the physical spaces around Miami where the events take place. Their plan was to re-envision what they were doing in order to keep those artists committed to the event in the mix.
“We made a point of honoring the financial commitments we made to visiting poets, so instead of bringing them down here (in most cases, we lost the money we’d spent on flights), we’ve set up virtual readings for them. So, all of what’s happening in April was designed on March 12 or later… all of it,” he said.
Making this new online/virtual month-long event happen meant learning to use a new platform, in their case Crowdcast, “which we hope will make it very simple for people to just click on one link and join us for workshops and readings,” said Cunningham.
In addition, they’ll be using their social media accounts in a much more active way, incorporating a series of online activations via Instagram. Those include lessons plans for families including age appropriate writing prompts, archival footage from past festival, mainly “content and engagements every single day, and they will all be virtual,” he said.
“The festival dates remain the same, April 1-30, with new content and engagements daily, all virtual. We don’t want anyone to leave their homes except when it’s absolutely necessary. Overall, we hope the programming brings people joy and fulfillment during a very difficult period,” Cunningham said.
Joining the visiting poets planned for the original line-up will be many others they’ve added, which due to the virtual format “offers us the opportunity to present many more poets, local ones that will be familiar to our audience along with some from very far away,” he said.
Participating poets for this year include Nate Marshall and Franny Choi to name a few. And leave it to O, Miami to come up with projects like MTV Cribs but for sad people, Robots from Miami who re-write Robert Frost and The Department of Things We’d Forgotten About.
The full schedule is on their website.
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An interview with P. Scott Cunningham, shared with permission.
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