Bob Holman is an American poet and poetry activist, most closely identified with the Oral tradition, the spoken word, and slam poetry. As a promoter of poetry in many media, Holman has spent the last four decades working variously as an author, editor, publisher, performer, emcee of live events, director of theatrical productions, producer of films and television programs, record label executive, university professor, poet’s house proprietor, and archivist. He was described by Henry Louis Gates Jr. in The New Yorker as "the postmodern promoter who has done more to bring poetry to cafes and bars than anyone since Ferlinghetti."
Holman was born in Harlan, Kentucky in 1948, the child of “a coal miner’s daughter and the only Jew in town.” His father committed suicide when Holman was two. After his mother remarried, Holman was raised in rural Ohio. He attended Columbia College and graduated in 1970 with a degree in English. At Columbia, Holman studied with Kenneth Koch, Eric Bentley, and Michael Wood but claims that his “major poetry schooling,” was “the Lower East Side, with Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, Anne Waldman, Miguel Piñero, Hettie Jones, Ed Sanders, Amiri Baraka, Ted Berrigan, Alice Notley, Pedro Pietri, David Henderson, Steve Cannon, et al.”
St. Mark's Poetry Project
Since its founding by Paul Blackburn in 1966, the St. Mark’s Poetry Project in New York has been (according to John Ashbery) “a major force in contemporary American literature.” Holman coordinated the readings at the Poetry Project from 1977 through 1984 and was on the Project’s board of directors from 1980 through 1984.
Nuyorican Poets Café
Since its founding by Miguel Algarín in 1973, the Nuyorican Poets Café’s purpose “has always been to provide a stage for the artists traditionally under-represented in the mainstream media and culture.” As co-director of the Nuyorican, Holman introduced slam poetry to the café in 1988 and emceed the venue’s slams through 1996. In 1993, he founded the Nuyorican Poets Café Live!, a touring company of poets.
"Aloud! Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café"
Holman and Algarin were co-editors of the anthology entitled “Aloud! Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café.” Published in 1994, “Aloud!” was a winner of the 1994 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.
In 1996, the Nuyorican Poets Café Poetry Slam Team was the subject of a feature-length documentary film entitled SlamNation. Directed by Paul Devlin, the film follows Holman and the poets of the 1996 Nuyorican team (Saul Williams, Beau Sia, Jessica Care Moore and mums da Schemer) as they compete in the 1996 National Poetry Slam in Portland, Oregon.
Bowery Poetry Club
Holman is the founder and proprietor of the Bowery Poetry Club, which opened to the public in September 2002. Billed as “a Home for Poetry,” the club sponsors poetry events every night, and workshops and readings in the afternoons. In an interview with the New York Times shortly after the club’s opening, Holman said, “They say no one has ever gone broke running a bar in New York, but we're going to give it a shot. In 2004 the club won a Village Award from the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation. The awards are given “to help…recognize the people, places, and businesses that make a significant contribution to the legendary quality of life in Greenwich Village, The East Village, and NoHo."
Bowery Poetry Books
In conjunction with YBK Publishers, Holman founded Bowery Poetry Books in 2005. Since then the imprint has published 13 titles, including works by Taylor Mead, Janet Hamill, Fay Chiang, Paul L. Mills, and Black Cracker. It also published an anthology entitled “The Bowery Bartenders Big Book of Poems.”
Holman has directed and/or produced a steady stream of plays during his career, most of them written by poets. These include:
- Ted Berrigan's “Clear the Range” at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church Theater, 1977
- “4 Plays by Edwin Denby” at the Eye and Ear Theater, March 1981
- Ed Friedman’s “The White Snake” at the Eye and Ear Theater, May 1982
- W. H. Auden’s “Paid on Both Sides”, at the Eye and Ear Theater, May 1983
- A series produced at St. Mark’s Church between 1988 and 1990 comprising Millicent Dillon’s “She Is In Tangiers: Life and Work of Jane Bowles”, Vladimir Mayakovsky’s “Mayakovsky, a Tragedy,” Tristan Tzara’s “The Gas Heart”, Antonin Artaud’s “Jet of Blood”, and Holman’s own collaboration with Bob Rosenthal, “The Cause of Gravity”/”The Whore of the Alpines”/”Bicentennial Suicide.”
- D. Zhonzinsky's “Stop at Nothing” at The Kitchen, 1992
- Pedro Pietri's “Eat Rocks” at New Dramatists NYC
- Ed Sanders's “A Night at the Rebel Café” at the Bowery Poetry Club, 2003
At WNYC-TV and WNYC-FM
Between 1987 and 1993 Holman was the producer and host of “Poetry Spots” for WNYC-TV, a public television station in New York City. In a foreshadowing of the technique used in “The United States of Poetry,” each “Poetry Spot” was a short film built around a single poet performing a poem. The “Poetry Spots” series won New York Emmy Awards in 1989 and 1992.
In 2004-2005, Holman was Poet-in-Residence at WNYC-FM, a storied public radio station in New York City.
Nuyo Records/Mouth Almighty Records
In 1994 Holman, Sekou Sundiata, and Bill Adler co-founded NuYo Records, a record label devoted to the spoken word. Its first two releases, distributed in conjunction with Imago Records, included “Grand Slam: Best of the National Poetry Slam”
This venture was revived in 1996 as Mouth Almighty Records under the auspices of Mercury Records. Over the course of the next three years the label released 18 titles, including recordings by the Last Poets, Allen Ginsberg, and Sekou Sundiata, two CDs of short fiction from The New Yorker magazine, and a two-CD set of readings of Edgar Allan Poe produced by Hal Willner. Mouth Almighty’s four-CD box set of readings by William Burroughs, produced by the poet John Giorno, was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1999.
In 1998 Mouth Almighty released Holman’s own “In With the Out Crowd,” produced by Hal Willner.
"United States of Poetry"
In 1996 Holman, director Mark Pellington, and producer Joshua Blum teamed up to create "The United States of Poetry," a critically acclaimed five-part PBS television series. The program featured over 60 poets, rappers, cowboy poets, American Sign Language poets, and Slammers. In a review for the New York Times, John J. O’Connor wrote, “Wandering all over the map, geographical and literary, ‘The United States of Poetry’ unabashedly celebrates the Word. These days, that's downright courageous.” Identified as “the brainchild of Bob Holman,” the series is described as “an excellent presentation of 20th Century poetry” on the website of the Academy of American Poets.
The television series was accompanied into the market-place by a book and a soundtrack recording. The book, published by Abrams Books, was co-edited by Holman, Pellington, and Blum, with an introduction by Holman.
The soundtrack, underscored with music by tomandandy, was issued by Mouth Almighty Records. In a review for the New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote, “The [soundtrack] illustrates how thoroughly the lines between literature and popular culture have dissolved over the last 40 years.”
Among Holman’s first teaching jobs was a stint in July 1991 at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, which had been founded at the Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado by Chogyam Trungpa, Allen Ginsberg, and Anne Waldman in 1974. Holman’s course was entitled “From Rap to Zap.” Between 1993 and 1996 Holman was a Professor of Writing at The New School for Social Research, and from 1998 through 2002 a Visiting Professor of Writing and Integrated Arts at Bard College. In 2003 Holman relocated to Columbia University's School of the Arts where, as a Visiting Professor of Writing, he taught the graduate course "Exploding Text: Poetry Performance." In 2007, as a Visiting Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Holman began teaching a course called “Art and the Public Sphere.” In 2010 Holman suspended his teaching activities to focus on the Endangered Language Alliance.
Endangered Language Alliance
In 2010, in cooperation with linguists Daniel Kaufman and Juliette Blevins, Holman founded the Endangered Language Alliance. The work, he says, comprises a mission: “We are so in awe of the power of the book that we've forgotten the power of sound and the magic of sense nested in sound. Everybody's fighting for the preservation of species, but who's fighting for the preservation of languages, which are in fact the souls…of culture itself?” The project has so far generated ”On the Road With Bob Holman: A Poet’s Journey Into Global Cultures and Languages,” a three-part documentary DVD focused on West Africa and Israel. Holman is currently in production on “Word Up! Language Matters with Bob Holman,” a 90-minute endangered languages special produced by David Grubin for PBS. Bob Holman features on Welsh artist Gai Toms' 2012 album Bethel, on which he performs an improvised scat
Bob Holman Audio/Video Poetry Collection
New York University's Fales Library is the home of The Bob Holman Audio/Video Poetry Collection, a multimedia collection documenting spoken word performances and productions between the years 1977 and 2002. Key items include spoken word projects featuring and/or produced by Holman himself. Marvin Taylor, director of the Fales Library, has said Holman’s collection “is a magnificent resource for anyone who cares about New York's spoken word scene during the last 40 years. No one else has such documentation.”
- Bicenntential Suicide: a novel to be performed, w/ Bob Rosenthal, Frontward Books, 1976.
- The Rainbow Raises Its Shoulder/When a Flower Grows, Chinatown Planning Council, 1979
- Tear to Open: This this this this this this, Power Mad Press, 1979.
- 8 Chinese Poems, Peeka Boo Press, 1981
- SWEAT&SEX&Politics!, Peeka Boo Press, 1981
- PANIC*DJ: Performance Text, Poems Raps Songs, Larry Qualls and Associates/University Arts Resources, 1988.
- Cupid's Cashbox (with drawings by Elizabeth Murray), Jordan Davies, 1988.
- Bob Holman's The Collect Call of the Wild, John Macrae/Henry Holt & Company, 1995.
- Beach Simplifies Horizon (with illustrations by Robert Moskowitz), The Grenfell Press, 1998.
- A Couple of Ways of Doing Something (a collaboration with Chuck Close), Aperture, 2006.
- Bowery Poetry Club
- The Fales Library Guide to the Bob Holman Audio/Video Poetry Collection
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- Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, “Sudden Def”, The New Yorker, June 19, 1995.
- Richardson, Linda, ”Public Lives; A Poet (and Proprietor) Is a Beacon in the Bowery,” New York Times, November 12, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/12/nyregion/public-lives-a-poet-and-proprietor-is-a-beacon-in-the-bowery.html?pagewanted=print.
- Bio, bobholman.com, http://www.bobholman.com/bio
- “Project History,” website of the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, http://poetryproject.org/about/history.
- ”Bio” at bobholman.com, http://www.bobholman.com/bio
- ”History,” Nuyorican Poets Café, website, http://www.nuyorican.org/history.php.
- ”Bio” at bobholman.com, http://www.bobholman.com/bio.
- Aloud! Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, anthology, Henry Holt, 1994, ISBN 0805032576.
- See “The American Book Awards/Before Columbus Foundation” on the website of the American Booksellers Association, http://www.bookweb.org/btw/awards/The-American-Book-Awards---Before-Columbus-Foundation.html.
- Homepage of SlamNation.com, http://www.slamnation.com/homepage.
- “Propaganda,” on website of Bowery Poetry Club, http://www.bowerypoetry.com/#Propaganda.
- Richardson, Lynda, “PUBLIC LIVES; A Poet (and Proprietor) Is a Beacon in the Bowery,” New York Times, November 12, 2002, http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/12/nyregion/public-lives-a-poet-and-proprietor-is-a-beacon-in-the-bowery.html.
- ”Village Awards,” from the website of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, http://www.gvshp.org/_gvshp/events/awards.htm.
- Bowery Poetry Books page on the website of YBK Publishers, http://ybkpublishers.com/poetry.htm.
- ”The Awesome Whatever on amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/The-Awesome-Whatever-Bob-Holman/dp/B0016DEIM6/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1335207115&sr=1-1
- “Guide to the Eye and Ear Theater Archive 1979 – 1996, Subseries D: Four Plays, Box 2, Folders 1- 7, http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/fales/eyeandear/eyeandear.html
- “Guide to the Eye and Ear Theater Archive 1979 – 1996, “Subseries H: The White Snake, Box 2, Folders 30 – 34, http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/fales/eyeandear/eyeandear.html
- “Guide to the Eye and Ear Theater Archive 1979 – 1996, Subseries G: Paid on both Sides, Box 2, Folders 24 – 29. http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/fales/eyeandear/eyeandear.html
- Sisario, Ben, “Connecting History Through Poetry,” New York Times, August 18, 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/18/movies/arts-briefing.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
- See for example, “Reg E. Gaines reads ‘CAB,’” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLGp9z0xFPY.
- “Bob Holman: Master of all things poetry,” WNYC.org website, http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2008/mar/31/bob-holman-master-of-all-things-poetry/
- ”Grand Slam,” http://www.amazon.com/Grand-Slam-Best-National-Poetry/dp/6303210643/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1334951916&sr=1-1
- The Last Poets, "Time Has Come," 1997, http://www.amazon.com/Time-Has-Come-Last-Poets/dp/B000001ERB/ref=sr_1_10?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1328477690&sr=1-10
- Allen Ginsberg, "The Ballad of the Skeletons", 1996, http://www.amazon.com/Ballad-Skeletons-CD-Single-Allen-Ginsberg/dp/B0000015YH/ref=sr_1_6?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1328477821&sr=1-6
- Sekou Sundiata, "The Blue Oneness of Dreams," 1997, http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Oneness-Dreams-Sekou-Sundiata/dp/B000001ER3/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1328477962&sr=1-1
- "The New Yorker Out Loud, Vols. 1 and 2," fhttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dpopular&field-keywords=the+new+yorker+out+loud&x=0&y=0,
- Various Artists, "Closed on Account of Rabies", 1997, http://www.amazon.com/Closed-Account-Rabies-Poems-Tales/dp/B000003ZVR/ref=sr_1_8?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1328558610&sr=1-8
- “The Best of William Burroughs: From Giorno Poetry Systems” as depicted and described on amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/Best-William-Burroughs-Giorno-Systems/dp/B000006CMX/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1328558816&sr=1-1
- Associated Press. "1999 GRAMMY NOMINATIONS". Farlex, Inc. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
- ”Team Finalists” on Poetry Slam, Inc. website, http://www.poetryslam.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=147&Itemid=84.
- ”In With the Out Crowd” on amazon.com, http://www.amazon.com/With-Out-Crowd-Bob-Holman/dp/B000006893/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1334862818&sr=1-1.
- Full Cast and Crew for “United States of Poetry” on IMDB website, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0235948/fullcredits#cast.
- O’Connor, John J., “Television Review; Poetry in Motion, Read Aloud or Simply Imagined,” NYT, Feb. 1, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/01/arts/television-review-poetry-in-motion-read-aloud-or-simply-imagined.html.
- ”The United States of Poetry”: A Series by PBS,” http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5708.
- “United States of Poetry” page on Abrams Books website, http://www.abramsbooks.com/Books/United_States_of_Poetry-9780810939271.html.
- Holden, Stephen, “Pop View; Wordsworth With Attitude, and Music,” New York Times, May 19, 1996, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/05/19/books/pop-view-wordsworth-with-attitude-and-music.html?pagewanted=1
- Course description, “From Rap to Zap,” Naropa University archive project, http://archive.org/details/Bob_Holman_class_rap_to_zap_July_1991_91P134.
- ”Welcome to the New School Writing Program, http://www.newschool.edu/writing/.
- Description of Holman’s “Exploding Text: Poetry in Performance, http://inside.bard.edu/academic/courses/fall98/intarts.htm.
- ”Bob Holman and Alhaji Papa Susso to Speak at Columbia on ‘The Re-emergence of the Oral tradition in the Digital Age,’” http://library.columbia.edu/news/exhibitions/2006/20060404_holman.html.
- Course description, ”Art and the Public Sphere,” New York University website, http://app.tisch.nyu.edu/object/H48.1054Lect.
- Brodnitz, Dan, ”An Interview with Bob Holman,” about-creativity.com, March 15, 2007, http://about-creativity.com/2007/03/an-interview-with-bob-holman.php.
- ”On the Road with Bob Holman” Rattapallax DVD, 2012, http://rattapallax.com/blog/on_the_road.
- Guide to the Bob Holman Audio/Video Poetry Collection, http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/fales/holman/index.html.
- Email from Marvin Taylor to Bill Adler, April 11, 2012.
- ”Bicentennial Suicide” page on betweenthecovers.com, http://www.betweenthecovers.com/btc/item/349869/
- "Tear to Open" page on AbeBooks.com website, http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=4989510715&searchurl=kn%3D%2522tear%2Bto%2Bopen%2522%26sts%3Dt%26x%3D78%26y%3D12
- "8 Chinese Poems" page on worldcat.org website, http://www.worldcat.org/title/eight-chinese-poems/oclc/51906785
- "Panic DJ" page on abeBooks.com website, http://www.abebooks.com/PANIC-DJ-HOLMAN.BOB-NEW-YORK-LARRY/200138070/bd
- "Cupid’s Cashbox" page on specificobject.com website, http://www.specificobject.com/objects/info.cfm?object_id=16364&search=
- "Bob Holman’s The Collect Call of the Wild" on alibris.com website, http://www.alibris.com/booksearch.detail?invid=10811857377&qwork=750270&qsort=&page=1
- "Beach Simplifies Horizon" page on bibliopolis.com website, http://www.bibliopolis.com/main/books/acequia_11425.html?id=aicZHC4P,
- "A Couple of Ways of Doing Something” on the Aperture Foundation website, http://www.aperture.org/books/browse-by-photographer/a-c/chuck-close-a-couple-of-ways-of-doing-something.html