Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
In our loftiest literary dreams, all poetry would be written in the great outdoors with an antique typewriter resting atop a small wooden desk. Following composition, the author would read the work aloud with passion and conviction to an eager and captivated audience.
In South Florida, this utopian vision is a reality—but not without a fee! (If a very small one.) Once a month, the Miami Poetry Collective runs an outdoor, public event called the Poem Depot, where the organization’s resident poets set up shop with tables and clacking typewriters on a busy Miami street to crank out fresh, personalized poetry, starting at $2 a poem. It’s pedestrian’s simple interest in creativity, that gets people to pause for poetry; that, coupled with the novelty factor of seeing rows of noisy, vintage typewriters on a modern street corner. The themes of poems are pitched by the customers. Suggestions can be as complex as stanza and verse style, or as simple as the recipient’s name and his/her favorite animal.
MPC member Nick Vagnoni explains the artistic objective behind the Poem Depot is “to make poetry a more public endeavor, to show people that it’s not some strange, secretive thing, but really a form of communication to be shared and enjoyed.”
Member Abe Folgar points to Miami’s potent mixture of charm and grit as fuel for the continued success of the Poem Depot. “There’s struggle here and irresponsible wealth; there’s plenty of shit you don’t see or have forgotten about,” he says. “I think that lends itself to the poetic landscape very well and people respond positively when they happen upon it on a street corner.”
Dave Landsberger says that some of his greatest achievements as a writer have happened as a working poet during a Poem Depot. “Once a young and stylish Miami mother approached me about writing for her son, a mop-topped kid off in the shadows who was far too shy to approach any of us bearded and slipshod looking poets,” he recalls. “He wanted a poem about ‘action.’ Seeing as how my brain is basically a four-year-old boy’s with a slightly higher grasp of operating machinery, I chucked out a poem full of robots, explosions, and ninjas. The kid disappeared, off into the Miami-Dade school system somewhere, but his mother came back the following month and told me that her son had the poem tacked up on his wall. Not only that, he had moved it around his room a few times, like some sort of tyrannical art director, constantly searching for the right place to prop his art on the wall. I think that’s the best compliment I’ve ever received as a writer.”
We were pleased to learn that the poets over at the Miami Poetry Collective are also fans of SMITH Magazine. They’ve used their poetic prowess to write some Six-Word Memoirs of their own:
On the formation of the Miami Poetry Collective:
“We must have been very bored.”
“Miami sucked. Now it doesn’t suck.”
“We write poetry in Miami, bitch.”
On the Poem Depot:
“Two bucks. Clik Clak. Personalized poem.”