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Poetry at Orlando International Airport? Why not!

by Attractions Magazine Staff

In these days of innovation and imagination, we continue to be amazed at how many of our region’s tourist businesses have created wonderful new ways to do business or enhance what they do. For today’s example, step forward Orlando International Airport.

orlando international airport

By Susan & Simon Veness

Yes, there are still many challenges to meet and obstacles to overcome in the age of COVID-19, but here’s something completely novel that you wouldn’t normally expect to discover on your travels — a poetry exhibition.

Continuing its commitment of support for the arts and culture of the region, @MCO has opened its first-ever exhibition featuring poetry by 13 local writers, including Billy Collins, the former two-term Poet Laureate of the United States and current Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute, as well as two teen poets from the Parramore community.

orlando international airport

“Words In Flight, A Celebration of Orlando Area Poets” offers poems inspired by the theme of flight, travel and transformation paired with photographs from the airport archives. The exhibition continues through Sept. 30, and is on view at the airport’s 3rd Level, near the Checkpoint for Gates 70-129 (by the Starbucks) in the Main Terminal.

The exhibition represents a partnership between the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority and the City of Orlando, with Orlando’s first Poet Laureate Susan Lilley assisting with the curation of the poems as well as contributing her own words.

In addition to Collins and Lilley, the selected poets offer diverse voices:

  • Vidhu Aggarwal, author and professor at Rollins College 
  • Valada Parker Flewellyn, author, storyteller, social justice advocate 
  • Terry Godbey, Orlando-based author and winner of Rita Dove Poetry Award 
  • Russell Kesler, Orlando native, author and professor at UCF 
  • Tamara J. Madison, writer, editor and instructor at Valencia College 
  • Cecilia Milanes, author and professor at UCF’s Puerto Rico Research Hub 
  • Don Stap, professor emeritus, University of Central Florida 
  • Terry Ann Thaxton, director UCF’s MFA Creative Writing Program 
  • Shawn Welcome, founder of the weekly “Diverse Word” at Dandelion Community Café 
  • Za’Niyah Anestal, 7th grader at OCPS ACE School 
  • Madeline Stevens, 8th grader at OCPS ACE School 

“Orlando International Airport has a long history of supporting and showcasing the arts in our community,” says Phil Brown, chief executive officer of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “Our latest venture is a collaboration with the City of Orlando and local poets to capture the beauty and essence of the Central Florida experience through the power of words.”

“During this time, it is important for our community to come together, while remaining socially distant. Poetry and art unite us and I hope that this exhibition sparks a new appreciation of poetry for our residents and our visitors,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. “This is our first collaboration of this kind with GOAA. We are pleased to partner to showcase our diverse and extremely talented poets.”


Editor’s NoteSusan & Simon Veness freelance write for a number of publications, ours included. But here they write on behalf of the Central Florida Tourism Collective, a group they formed, and in which we are a part of, that aims to give visitors a reassuring message of life in the heart of the Sunshine State during these unprecedented times.

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1 comment

Suzannah Gail Collins July 17, 2020 - 3:54 pm

The press release that went out about this contained incorrect information. Billy Collins is not the current Senior Distinguished Fellow of the Winter Park Institute. The Institute, in fact, no longer exists. He would prefer that there be no mention of the Institute, as it’s an insignificant part of his rich past.

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