Catherine Esposito Prescott: Empowering Coconut Grove women in literature 

In a May 2020 poem, Coconut Grove writer Catherine Esposito Prescott describes her two pregnancies this way:

“I craved chocolate and sex; with one son it was salted 

meats and conversation, with the other son, milkshakes 

and classical music. Each time their spirit left me like a fierce wind, blowing the sail of my body”

The work, which she calls “Ordinary Offering,” was published in the “South Florida Poetry Journal.” 

“Poetry,”  Prescott says. “It’s to make sense of the things that don’t make sense.”

Prescott has been creating literature in the Grove since 2001. She has also provided a platform and opportunity for women writers in Miami to publish work about heartfelt topics. In 2017, she co-founded Supporting Women Writers in Miami (SWWIM) alongside fellow poet Jen Karetnick, her friend and colleague. 

Prescott was introduced to poetry during her first creative writing class at Walt Whitman High School on Long Island. She recalls signing up for an audio-visual journalism class, but then her guidance counselor, Mr. Martin, thought creative writing was a better fit. 

“I didn’t agree with him at the time, but I did agree to take the class,” said Prescott. “Anyway, he was right.” 

She fell in love with poetry and pursued it with ambition. One of Prescott’s first poems was published and read by many. 

“One of the first poems I published was about the word attachment, which is incredibly poignant,” shares Prescott, reflecting on her early exploration of themes that intersect with her current teachings on yoga philosophy

After graduating from college, she attended an MFA program at New York University. 

“One of the first poets I connected with was Sharon Olds,” said Prescott. She explains that the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer’s book, “The Gold Cell,” was one of her entryways into poetry. 

She moved to South Beach in 2001 with her husband, Andrew Prescott. Her three kids –  Connor, Austen, and Celia – were all born there. But having lived in New York, where you can walk to most places, she looked for something similar in South Florida. Thus she found the Grove in fall 2021.

For the past five years, she has guided aspiring yoga teachers through core teachings that delve deep into the practice of non-attachment, fostering an understanding of letting go and embracing the present moment.

Prescott mentions that in fall 2022, her son, Austen, was diagnosed with a rare, lethal pediatric brain cancer. He passed away in August 2023. Prescott and her husband established a fund at Sylvester Cancer Center to help underwrite a lab where scientists are using Austen’s tumor cells to find effective treatment and, hopefully, a cure. 

She also wrote a series of poems based on the year of her son’s illness and death. 

“Some poems are technically difficult, like a villanelle or a crown of sonnets,” she says. “Others are emotionally difficult.” 

Though she hasn’t written about the Grove yet, “it’s starting to seep through my subconscious and into the work,” she says.

Apart from being SWWIM’s co-founder, Prescott also serves as the editor-in-chief every day. She has previously worked as a copywriter, editor, bookseller, activist, fundraiser, event organizer, organic garden founder, professor and teaching artist. 

Prescott believes women need a place to express their perspectives in a literary landscape that has often favored men. 

She says SWWIM came not from any single event. “It was more like a momentum that kept growing over time.” 

Jen Karetnick and Catherine Esposito Prescott, co-founders of SWWIM, sitting together at The Betsy Hotel.  (Photo provided by Prescott)

Its mission is to uphold and honor women poets by fostering intergenerational connections among artists and maintaining a living archive of modern poetry, all the while establishing Miami as a hub for the literary arts.

Heidi Seaborn had a poem published on SWWIM’s website that she believes represents the group‘s values and missione

“I hear that same cherishing of all things luminous in my poem, especially of people, their radiance,” said Seaborn. “How we make each other glow when we are present and humane and more than the darkness that surrounds us.”

Mary Block, senior editor and director of development for SWWIM, reflects on Prescott and Karetnick’s vision with admiration. “Instead of accepting that they weren’t going to be included in what already existed,” Block says, “they created their own.”

Prescott envisions a future where the organization continues to evolve organically, guided by its mission and the creative energy of its community.

“It gives us language for things that we have no language for,” said Prescott. 

FIU students Nayeli Membreno & Andrea Rivera wrote this story as part of a cooperative agreement between FIU’s Lee Caplin School of Journalism & Media and the Spotlight. Click here (missing link) to read the original article published in the Spotlight.

Nayeli Membreno is a journalism and communication major with a minor in English. Born and raised in Miami, Florida, but with Argentinian roots, she brings a multicultural perspective to work. She is passionate about storytelling and enjoys keeping people informed through her writing. Her goal is to share stories, uncover the truth, and give a voice to those who need to be heard.

Andrea Rivera is a junior majoring in Digital Communication and Media with a Digital Journalism focus. After her studies, she wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment field.