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During Miami's poetry month, a poet shares her story through 5 lines on a billboard

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

Every April, the city of Miami fills with poetry. Organizers behind the annual O, Miami Poetry Festival have printed poems on parking tickets, flown them behind airplanes and written them up on the top of ice-cream pints. But one of their biggest projects is getting people to write ZIP odes, five-line poems inspired and shaped by your ZIP code. From member station WLRN, reporter Kate Payne brings us one poet's story of where and who she comes from.

KATE PAYNE, BYLINE: Luz Rossy never really thought her poetry would go anywhere. Now it's plastered on a billboard on a busy downtown street corner for all of Miami to see.

LUZ ROSSY: I write so much stuff that I never really have it in my mind that it's going to be big someday or be anywhere someday.

PAYNE: Like scores of Miamians, Rossy got into writing ZIP odes. They're kind of like haikus, but the numbers in your ZIP code determine how many words you get to work with in each line. Rossy's piece was chosen from more than 1,500 poems to be published on a billboard as part of the O, Miami Poetry Festival.

ROSSY: My name is Luz Rossy and I live in Miami, Fla.

PAYNE: She got to read her poem in front of the billboard, splashed in gold with her words and five lines of bold black text.

ROSSY: My ZIP code is 33125. My name came from my abuela, and she said we can share it forever.

PAYNE: I met up with Rossy to talk about her grandmother and her journey to seeing herself as a poet.

ROSSY: So this is the Westchester Regional Library. Normally come in - this is the circulation desk.

PAYNE: This is the library where Rossy works, and it's where she wrote that poem about the other Luz.

ROSSY: In my heart, I never felt like a poet. And it wasn't till I wrote more where I was like, OK, I can feel the poetry now in me. Like, I can feel it flow out of me to the point where I'm like, I'm definitely a poet. There would be times where I'd have to, like, scramble for a piece of paper to write it down. And it's, like, those little moments there where I'm like, that's a poet.

PAYNE: What did your abuela think when she heard?

ROSSY: Oh, she was so honored. She was proud, which touched me as well, because, you know, she's my grandma. So I would love for her to feel happy of something I wrote about her. I can't even express how honored I am to be named after her, you know?

PAYNE: Rossy said her abuela came from the Dominican Republic, and she had to struggle in Miami. It didn't always feel like home.

ROSSY: It's not easy to do what she had to do to - you know, survive in a place where Spanish wasn't the main language and having to find work and make sure all her daughters are going to school and they're fed. And it wasn't easy for her. And she's still standing today as strong as she is.

PAYNE: Now her abuela's struggle is the story of Miami, a story worth writing about. And Rossy can be the one to tell it. For NPR News, I'm Kate Payne in Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kate Payne