The “Journo-Poems” of Florida Man

In March 2024, the Orlando-based publisher Burrow Press is releasing a new edition of my poetry collection Florida Man: Poems. The book “revisits” the original work and extends its themes with 20 new poems, which include text, collage, audio, and visual pieces. The book centers the Florida Man meme to meditate on Florida’s history, culture, and complicated position in the nation’s consciousness. 

People who pre-order the new edition through the Burrow Press website will receive three prints I made (similar to the ones I discussed in my poetry broadside post). The book’s launch party will be held at Tombolo Books on March 12th at 7 PM. I’ll be joined by St. Pete’s poet laureate Gloria Muñoz and multimedia artist/designer Chad Mize to discuss writing, art, and community in the Tampa Bay area.

As I prepare for the book’s publication, I’m going to write a series of Artist Stories about the project — from its initial conception to its new work and beyond. 

Poet Geoff Bouvier writes that the book’s “deft journo-poems blaze and sear down the page,” and this first post looks at the project’s journalistic beginnings. 


image via Tombolo Books

My first collection of poetry — Florida Man: Poems — began as journalistic essays. I started the series in my MFA program at the University of New Orleans. By then, the Florida Man meme had found its home on the internet and people seemingly loved to ask me: What is up with Florida? 

I wanted to figure out an answer for them as well as myself. 

I studied creative nonfiction in my MFA program. At that point, I had also worked in journalism for about five-ish years. I decided to approach the essays through a journalistic lens and interview people who’d been impacted by the Florida Man meme. 

My project aimed to write about the human(ity) behind the headlines.



image from Florida Man: Poems, Revisited

For my first piece, I traveled to Fort Lauderdale to interview a woman who’d made headlines for “slapping” her grandmother. Journalists — as we often do — wrote this story from the police report, easily accessed online because of Florida’s liberal public record laws. 

As I wrote for Salon, the story was more complicated than the headline, and it was ultimately one of redemption. 

I planned to write more journalistic essays like this to look at the meme from its prismatic angles.

But then I moved back to Florida after grad school. 

I hadn’t lived in the state for a few years. A lot had changed — about the state, about me. I didn’t have any answers. I wasn’t even sure of the questions I needed to ask. 

That’s when I turned to poetry. 

Essay writing, for me, asks me to drive toward an answer while poetry allows me to meditate on a question. 

I began to see some of the interviews I’d conducted for the essays as starts for the poems. The mixing of journalism and poetry let the work springboard into a new landscape. The rest of the poetry in the book then bloomed from those seeds. 


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