Haitian-American writer Michèle-Jessica "M.J." Fièvre. M.J. Fièvre's Facebook Images

In Michèle-Jessica “M.J.” Fièvre’s 23-year career as an author, the thought of having part her work on a can beer has never crossed her mind. But that’s what will happen next week, when her poem will appear on beer cans promoting a Miami poetry festival.

An excerpt of Fièvre’s poem, “Only In Miami,” has been imprinted on cans of Unbranded Brewing, a Florida based beer company. The beer, Salty Consonants, will be released on Tuesday and available for purchase at Unbranded’s brewhouse. The project is part of the O, Miami’s Poetry Festival, which started on Apr. 1.

Salty Consonants is a mixture of sweet orange and salt gose.

“Beer is good, but beer would be better with poems on the labels of the cans,” Fièvre said.

“Only In Miami” is part of “Happy, Okay?,” a collection of poems that Fièvre first published in 2019. “Only In Miami” describes the different culture, food, music, scent and languages the city displays under its warm weather.

“And in that kind of heat, on a humid day teeming with people, sweat, and various smells, a beer is the perfect companion,” Fièvre said. “It’s cooling and refreshing.”

The Salty Consonants can of beer. Photo courtesy of Michèle-Jessica “M.J.” Fièvre

The beer will be showcased and served at The Underline, a park in Miami, on Apr. 23 from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. During that event, other poems will be shown on a projector screen. Attendees are required to wear face coverings and practice social distancing. Only two of O, Miami Poetry Festival’s 19 events are in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s definitely a different model, it’s not the way we preferred to do the festival but we believe that safety is the most important thing,” said Scott Cunningham’s O, Miami’s Poetry Festival founding executive director.

Fièvre also translated writings in Creole in another project of this year’s festival called “The City Is.” In this event, statements that describe Miami were collected from Twitter, Reddit, Facebook and other online platforms and rewritten to start with “The city is.” Statements will be unveiled via a projector at New World Symphony on Thursday.

Another round of the event will take place on Apr. 15, but the statements will be projected at The Betsy Hotel South Beach this time.

O, Miami chose Fièvre’s poem for its collaboration with Unbranded Brewing because she personifies Miami.

“We were looking for something that spoke to flavors and food but that’s also regional and spoke to Miami,” Cunningham said. “When we came across that poem we were like ‘Oh, this is perfect, that’s everything we’re looking for.’ 

“M.J. writes about Miami in ways that truly document the real Miami,” Cunningham added.

Fièvre previously translated a poem from Charles Simic for a O, Miami project in 2011. That poem was displayed on buses in Miami-Dade County.

Fabienne Josaphat, another Haitian-American writer, has also translated a poem in Creole in a O, Miami project in 2018. She translated a poem from Sheila Sanchez, “Haiku.” It was imprinted on a coffee shop’s window.

As for the beer project, O, Miami had been wanting to combine beer and poetry in one of their projects since 2019. That eventually came to reality after LeeBetsy Charon, Unbranded Brewing’s comptroller, introduced the idea of writing a poem on a can of beer to O, Miami last summer.

“I’ve always been a fan of O, Miami and the events they do,” Charon said. “I’m super happy and excited my idea got accepted. I got to merge two of the things that I love: beer and poetry.”

Email me at onz@haitiantimes.com
Onz Chery started his journalism career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He later wrote for First Touch, local soccer leagues in New York and ESNY before joining The Haitian Times. Onz is also a Report for America corps member.

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