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“I’ve been following VONA for awhile,” Pablo Cartaya, program director at The Betsy Hotel, told the standing-room-only crowd. “When M. Evelina Galang came and told me VONA was moving to Miami, I nearly jumped out of my seat. We’re just proud to help and be a part of supporting the mind-blowing work they do. Now let’s have a party!” Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2015 at The Best American Poetry
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by Chauncey Mabe A Delicious end to Miami’s National Poetry Month in Miami Almost nothing went as planned for Poetry Paella, the annual event that closes out National Poetry Month at The Betsy Hotel (thebetsyhotel.com). Torrential rains forced the occasion indoors. Featured poet Gerald Stern, the 90-year-old living godfather of American poetry, could not attend. And yet the evening was a resounding success. It’s been that kind of year for O, Miami and The Betsy - South Beach, partners in the by now nationally famous regional celebration of all things poetical each April. Pablo Cartaya, Betsy’s Manager of Literary Programs (quite possible the only person with that job title in the country), opened the evening by quoting the hotel’s motto: “Creativity takes courage.” It’s a line written by Matisse that sums up the hotel’s commitment to all things artistic, and was worn on many lapels by night’s end, as that pin and refreshments were free and flowing for attendees. The evening’s first bit of small daring, a reading by, Carlos Pintado, a Cuban-American poet who read his poems in Spanish, without translation. But it was a fitting addition to a month that featured numerous gestures across Miami’s language divide that both O, Miami and The Betsy are committed to traversing and connecting. In any case, even this monolingual English speaker could feel the rhythm in Pintado’s verses, and his humble enthusiasm for being on the bill with more prominent poets was charming and infectious. While Stern bowed out of the event a few weeks earlier after a fall interrupted his plans, his poetry was recited by admirers like FIU’s Campbell McGrath and O, Miami’s Scott Cunningham who read poems by the American master throughout the evening, and they shared stories. Also on hand, Stern’s wife, Anne Marie Macari, a distinguished poet in her own right, who read from her new collection, Red Deer.“ “Miami is the place to be now, and Gerry is devastated he couldn’t come,” she said. “He said, ‘It’s too bad we have to cancel.’ And I said, ‘No, I’m going.’” Anne Marie was also a visiting writer in Betsy’s Writer's Room for a few days on either side of the reading. Another headliner was Major Jackson, an award-winning African-American poet. He read poems powerful and tender. He praised Stern (“a modern Whitman”) as one of his avatars. “I shouldn’t read from my first book, because most of it is cribbed from Gerry,” he joked. He too praised the Betsy and O Miami. “During Poetry Month, this feels like the spiritual center of the poetry world. I want to thank my friends in Miami for what they stand for...” The Betsy’s Poetry Paella’s 2015 reading and feeding was moved to the lobby of the Carlton Hotel, due to undergo extensive remodeling in a few weeks that will join it to The Betsy. It suddenly seemed appropriate that this would be the last event in the old Carlton, as this will be a public convening space even in... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2015 at The Best American Poetry
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Posted by Chauncey Mabe in special arrangement with Best American Poetry, April 2015 As all but the most delusional poets know, originality doesn’t really exist. Every writer is beholden to the books he or she has read or the writers whose work he or she admires. That’s the idea behind the “Under the Influence” reading sponsored by The Betsy-South Beach and O, Miami each year during National Poetry Month. The program originated four years ago. FIU poet Campbell McGrath, O, Miami (and former McGrath student) P. Scott Cunningham, and Daniel Halpern, poet and Ecco Press editor were on hand. Also present via video was Stanley Kunitz, Halpern’s teacher. Kunitz read a poem by Hyam Plutzik, the father of Betsy owner Jonathan Plutzik. Kuniz and Plutzik were contemporaries who knew each other’s work well. Since that first evening, it’s become an annual collaboration between O, Miami and The Betsy, with Campbell McGrath at the helm. “I love this event,” McGrath told the capacity audience at The Betsy’s BBar one recent evening. “It never fails to enhance our understanding of the poets who have influenced us.” He opened with another poem by Plutzik, the humorous Drinking Song. And, because McGrath and the two poets reading with him are also writing professors, the evening demonstrated how influence is received, transmuted, and passed to the next generation of poets. Julie Marie Wade, also an FIU poet, read “A Jazz Fan Looks Back,” by the late African American poet Jayne Cortez. “We’re told to write what you know,” Wade said in connection to the poem, “but it’s better to write about what you love.” She added, “This poem makes me want to learn more about jazz.” Daisy Fried opened with Frank O’Hara. A visiting writer-in-residence in The Betsy’s Writer's Room (The Betsy is host hotel for O, Miami during Poetry Month), Fried identified O’Hara for younger members of the audience as “a midcentury New York poet.” She lauded him for always “going for the emotion.” She promised that all three of her influence poems -- the poets also read two of their own -- would be about motherhood, though, she cautioned, “not in the way you might expect.” McGrath lamented the past year as a bad one for poets. Tomas Transtromer, the Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet died in late March, he noted, He read a poem titled “The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak,” by GalwayKinnell, who died last October. It was a vivid poem of aging and loss, beautifully rendered. McGrath told a story about playing softball against Kinnell when he was a graduate student at Columbia. Homage was paid to foreign poets, with Fried reading from the works of Cesare Pavese, an Italian writer of the first half of the 20th century, while McGrath read a poem by the Chilean poet Nicanor Parra(who turned 100 last September) in a translation by William Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. “In translation a poem is not exactly what was intended,” Fried said. “But influence comes from a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2015 at The Best American Poetry
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Apr 20, 2015