Remixing Weston, Florida – Shawn Dermer


I was born in Weston, Florida and lived there until I moved to Boston for college. In a lot of ways, Weston is the epitome of suburban America, with planned developments and landscaping throughout. As a hometown, Weston was great; I got to go to good schools, enjoy the stability provided from two parents working in the school system, and explore the vast influence of Latin American culture that has come to define the city. However, like most idealized areas, Weston has an interesting and controversial history. One of the largest “master planned” communities in the U.S., the creation of my hometown entailed massive environmental devastation to the Everglades as well as corporate run leadership of the town during its earlier decades.

In the following poems, I attempted to remix two archival documents detailing the creation and current status of Weston in order to convey the dichotomy between Weston’s positive image and its negative conception.


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Poem 1

`                                  SUPERBURB
meticulously designed hometown
reality                                           `
`                                                      hyperbole
destroying wetlands                                     `
`                                           developer-planned
high quality of life
never told about extra costs
best places in Florida
highly flood-prone                                            `
`                                                 resource disaster
Arvida had a plan                  DYNAMITE
`                                      of Arvida
by Arvida
for Arvida                                         `

Poem 2

 extraordinary            growth
Latin American immigrants
feel at home
economic strength                     `
`                     affluent investments
Town Center                                  `
Business Parks
`                                       Healthcare
Arvida’s swamp
made livable

Archival Context

Both poems used exclusively words from two documents, with both documents being used in each poem.

Firstly, I found a Community Background report written in 2011 as part of an initiative by the “Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) [to] incorporate ‘Sociocultural Effect’ features in its planning process to ensure community values and concerns receive proper attention throughout the entire transportation development process.” This document was pulled from the Digital Public Library of America and can be found here:

This report highlights the differences between Weston and the rest of Florida, especially the rest of Broward County and its surrounding area. It explains the influence of Latin American immigrants on both the overall cultural values of the community and the real estate market itself, as well as the general quality of life factors that make up the city. Focusing on the safety, economic state, and educational benefits of the City as well as its landscaping and architectural style, this document describes Weston as a relatively affluent but pleasant place to live.

The latter document was older and more aggressive than the first, an archived article from the Sun Sentinel – a local paper – which addressed the state of my then rapidly growing town as well as the scandals concerning its development. At the time of writing, the local government was still run nearly entirely by Arvida, the company allegedly making decisions that prioritize lining their own pockets over the needs of the residents. Come the fall, the residents would elect officials to their own government for the first time. It can be found here:

While both documents address Arvida, one of Florida’s largest real estate and development company at the time of its development of Weston, the Sun Sentinal piece directly discusses the then rapidly expanding scandals and controversy surrounding the company and what it had done. Arvida had planned out much of the city, reshaping and filling in the Everglades in order to build their own suburban utopia with which to attract affluent buyers. In doing so, they wrecked ecological havoc and offset the costs, allegedly secretly, to the residents of the city.

These documents collectively provide historical context for my hometown, both in the controversial way in which its viewed and the overall positive life many residents are able to enjoy in the modern day. The poems above attempt to highlight this dichotomy with a focus on the over-idealized and corporatist nature of its conception.

The Experience of Remixing

This was, honestly, the first time I have written a poem in at least 4 years. Doing so in the “remixing” style of M. NourbeSe Philip’s ZONG! was easier than I expected in some ways, but harder in others.

Overall, I found this style to be less restrictive, structurally, than that of a more traditional poem. The fragmented and almost performative nature of the pieces allowed me to not worry about perfect phrasing or rhythm. The physical structure of the poems allowed me to provide the rhythm I was aiming for without keeping track of syllables and rhyme schemes. When deciding on certain details of my poems, I found the limited vocabulary at my disposal a benefit. I simply couldn’t agonize over specific word choices when there was only one or two words in the documents that conveyed the idea I was going for.

Although remixing minimized many of stylistic concerns, it also introduced new ones. I had never considered the positions of or spacing between my words before. Having to do that for this post, while intellectually beneficial and fun in its own right, was a unique challenge. I found myself doubting whether I wanted a diagonal set of lines to go from the top left to the bottom right versus the top right to the bottom left (or if I even wanted a diagonal set of lines there at all). At other points, I hesitated when adding spaces between words on the same line. I was unsure if the emphasis I wanted would be conveyed better by the inclusion of an artificial distance or the lack thereof. In the end, I had to purposefully stop myself from tweaking the spacing again once I was happy with the outcome.

Writing remixed poems provided an interesting, stimulating, and novel way for me to engage with archival documents. While I still don’t think poem writing is necessarily one of my strengths, I’m pleased with the results I’ve produced and the depth with which I was able to read my documents. I do feel that I was not able to fully capture that depth within the poems, as I find my ideas easier to articulate more directly rather than poetically, but likewise cannot imagine being able to convey the same nuances I felt I was able to put into my poems any other way.