writer, listener

33040: The Poem

on April 25, 2015

My poem made the top 20 in the O, Miami WLRN-Miami Herald Ode to Your Zip Code Poetry Contest. I’m so excited–especially considering there were more than 3,500 entries! Holy shit.

The culminating event will be at Vizcaya Museum & Gardens next Wednesday. All twenty finalists–except me because I can’t go, but maybe I’ll send my husband–will read. There’ll be a lovely reception on the water and then five winners, selected by presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco, will be announced.

I’m sad I can’t go and I hope a Florida Keys poem is among the winners, although I can’t imagine they’d include a non-attendee. But this whole thing has been fun. I already feel good about the experience. I already won. Which was the point, I think—to make regular people think and feel like poets this month.

Not only did I get to read my poem on WLRN, but it was also the lede in a Washington Post piece on the Miami Poetry Festival.

For the article, I was asked a bunch of questions about what’s behind my poem and what the appeal of the contest was, so I’ll share that here since, for some silly reason, the entire article was not all about me.

Key West, the poem

Owning little applies to everybody in Key West. From our minimalists and environmentalists to our loaded friends who spend millions on 600-square foot cigar cottages in Old Town, everybody lives little here. But more than that, it’s an attitude. You just don’t need lots of stuff to feel content in Key West. That’s simply the way it is.

Regretting less—that has to do with what my dad gave me. He was a Vietnam vet who brought demons home with him. When I was three, he ran away to Key West. And when I came to visit him over the years, he seemed unreasonably happy, especially considering he had no money and no plan. Ever. Then when I turned 30, I pulled my own version of the same thing, I guess. I spent a lot of time resenting him over the years, but now I’m grateful because, ultimately, he gave me Key West. I get it now. He’s dead but I wish I could tell him I get it now. I wish I could hug him and thank him–two things I never really did, at least not sincerely.

As for the appeal of the contest, I submitted something this year because last year I chickened out, then read a bunch of awesome stuff from seemingly regular people like me. I’m no poet–I write fiction, mostly. But this O, Miami thing kind of makes us all feel like we’re good enough. At least good enough to toy around and have a little fun with poetry during National Poetry Month. And like who hasn’t fancied herself a poet, however secretly? Plus I love WLRN and all the ways people like Nancy Klingener keep Key West–Real Key West–part of the South Florida conversation.

Before this, I hadn’t thought quite so specifically about my zip code, but I love the idea. I’ll never write my zip code again without getting the warm fuzzies about that time I entered a poetry contest, and also about my dad. How weird and lovely.


8 responses to “33040: The Poem

  1. Good for you. And what a great idea for a poetry contest! Yours totally rocked it. (Mine would be a bitch: 97219… Maybe you could write one for me?!)

  2. D Matherly says:

    I always enjoy reading your written word, RLS!

  3. Roberta Markow says:

    Congrats!! All that beauty and a poet too—not fair to the rest of us…..

    Roberta Markow

    1415 Petronia Street

    Key West, FL 33040




  4. Nostrikethat says:

    Fan-freaking-tastic! More accolades to follow, for sure. Or possibly some kool-aid. One of the two.

  5. Emily says:

    Your writing is rad
    (Which is the opposite of bad)
    And your lifestyle in FL
    Makes me ever so glad

    (Ohhh that was terrible. You should stick to poetry, clearly. While I should run away from it. Like as far as I can get.)

    • 😛
      Hehe, thanks, Emily. Fraid I’m a one hit wonder in the poetry department. Or maybe I could get the same traction by presenting the first words of one of my manuscripts as poetry? It would look like this:

      Don’t forget
      we have an appointment with
      the dick shriveler
      after school

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