Afrobeta’s Magic Poetry Bus

Leave it to O, Miami Poetry Festival and local favorites Afrobeta to create a travelling poetry festival, as if a whole month of projects and events across the Miami-Dade County were not enough.

This year, Cucy and Tony of Afrobeta roam the town in a Bluebird school bus redesigned and refurbished by Miami’s own DJ Peoples. One side of Afrobeta’s Magic Poetry Bus, a.k.a the Milosz Coach, bears a line of poetry by legendary Polish poet Czesław Miłosz—“Language is the only homeland.”

On PAMM Family Day, the experience begins even before hopping onto the bus. For one, you can sit in lawn chairs propped on a pink shag rug. You can visit the IS Projects table where visitors screenprint lines of poetry on cardstock with a tie-dye’s range of color. Or else, stick an imaginative addition to #MiamiLivePoems, a large board featuring on-the-spot, crowd-generated poetry using Velcro wood letters created by Rebecca Shumway at Moonlighter (think giant magnetic poetry).

There’s no telling what you’ll encounter once you climb onto the bus. There have been mini poetry workshops, pop-up Afrobeta jams, poetry ciphers, mad libs, and other hands-on poetry activities.

At the PAMM activation on April 8th, strangers sat on zebra stripe couches lining the perimeter of the bus. The poets on board handed out poetry prescription bottles and volumes of poetry. In the back of the bus, high school students filled “Don-libs,” or ad libs pulled from legendary Miami-based poet Donald Justice.

At one point, Cucy began a cipher, asking “What kind of Miami poet are you?”

“I’m the kind of Miami poet who steals fruit from my neighbor’s yard,” answers a woman who had just hopped on the bus.

A young man, who would later beatbox over a reading of Emily Dickinson, says, “I’m the kind of Miami poet who doesn’t read poetry.”

As the cipher and poetry reading picked up, Tony started working his keyboard and drum machine. Unable to help herself, Cucy grabbed the microphone and improvised a melodic multilingual tropical space poem.

So far, The Magic Poetry Buds has activated cultural events like O, Miami’s opening night at North Beach Bandshell, PAMM Family Day, HATCH Miami, and most recently, Counter Corner. Though the Magic Poetry Bus shows up where it pleases, the next two confirmed appearances are at Viernes Culturales on April 28 and a stop at Leisure City by Coral Castle on April 29.
For more information and a full schedule of O, Miami Poetry Festival events, visit omiami.org.

 

WORDS BY: Michael Angel Martín

PHOTOGRAPHY BY: Jessica Kassin

Michael Angel Martín was born and raised in Miami, FL. He earned his MFA at Florida International University. His interests include stringed instruments, Benedictine contemplation, and mall food.  His poems can be found in or are forthcoming in Dappled Things, The Offbeat, Green Mountains Review, and Jai Alai Magazine. He works for O, Miami, an organization that connects people through poetry. Find his work here.

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