Pausing for Poetry Month

The first April of the new decade has made its way through Miami, and with it comes the first Poetry Month of the 2020s. First started in the 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, Poetry Month has been an opportunity to shine a light on the medium and its many great poets of both the past and the present. Throughout the years, Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) has championed and promoted the art of poetry through various exhibitions and events related to the subject. Even though we are all physically kept apart from one another during this pandemic and cannot participate in live events, we do not have to let this Poetry Month escape our grasp. I’m using this time to take a pause and reflect back on the ways poetry has been a part of my experience at PAMM.

An excellent memory goes back as recently as November with O, Miami & The Poetry Coalition at PAMM. For this event, the museum partnered with O, Miami and The Poetry Coalition to host three prominent poets of the modern day: Lambda Literary Award winners Richard Blanco and Raquel Salas Rivera, and Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award winner Campbell McGrath. Together, they presented a reading of their works for the collective residents of Miami to experience in the Learning Theatre.

O, Miami & The Poetry Coalition at PAMM. Photo: Lazaro Llanes

Another moment that celebrated the medium was last April during Poetry Art PAMM. PAMM celebrated Poetry Month with an event that celebrated the works of established poets Richard Blanco, Caridad Moro, Carlos Pintado, and Nikki Moustaki, along with pop-up poetry led by the future generation of students attending the Poetry Art Community course at FIU Honors College.

PAMM’s exploration in the medium of poetry is also shown in one of its inaugural exhibitions. A Human Document: Selections from the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry began in December of 2013, housing works from the collections of Ruth and Marvin Sackner. The exhibition encompassed a broad list of modernist subjects explored through different mediums, with one of these key elements being performance poetry.

Marvin Sackner, Emily Mello, and Ruth Sackner.

My fondest poetic memory at PAMM happened last April. The museum and O, Miami hosted the Poems to Order event in which poet Adenike O. Akinbisehin stationed herself in front of Verde restaurant and bar for an interactive activation. Many folks, including myself, were able to sit down with her and describe elements of ourselves. After this, she would produce a tailor-made poem specifically for each and every one of us. During my lunch break, I had the opportunity to spend time with her, share experiences with one another, and be gifted a poem from her portable typewriter. The experience was intimate, passionate, and centered around the art of poetry—reflecting PAMM’s commitment to fostering conversation and community through art.

All is not lost with Poetry Month this year. Through the avenue of the internet age, O, Miami continues to host events every day until the end of the month. A proud partner of PAMM, O, Miami has sought to create a greater interest in poetry through a variety of programs, publications, events, and services. Despite physical cancelations, they continue their dedication to follow through on those ideals even as we make our way through these times. On their main page, you can find a calendar with upcoming virtual presentations that relate to a host of topics expressed through the medium of poetry. These events range from a focus on historical dates, to writers’ workshops, to poetry readings by acclaimed masters in the craft.

In past periods of hardships, art has been a haven for many. As we continue to self-quarantine and prioritize our safety for today and tomorrow, we can turn to the mediums of art for hope and escapism. The belief that a novel, film, album, hobby, or poem can remedy the anxieties we carry with us is as true now as it has always been. The most beautiful thing about poetry, similar to my own experience with = Akinbisehin, is how personal it is. That within the construct of verses lies that genuine human connection with one another; one that suspends the physical and animates the emotional.

This blog post was authored by Visitor Service Assistant Juan Antonio Basteiro.

Juan Antonio Basteiro is a visitor service assistant at PAMM. He is currently enrolled at Florida Atlantic University with a major in English and an interdisciplinary minor in film. His interest in the arts is centered around the metafictional ways we frame narratives and what stories we tell through them.

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