I’ve never met anyone more excited about the possibility of poetry than Bob Holman. Mention any idea involving poetics with Bob and he will jump all over it, encourage you, give you a dozen resources, reminisce on variations of the idea, and then keep repeating the idea over and over transforming the idea of poetics into an actual poem right on the spot.
Bob is also one of those rare poets who can not be solely identified as a page or stage poem since Bob does not read or performs poems, he embodies them. The poem, whether his own or a cover poem, seems to come from his whole body with a seamless stream of word choice, sound play, and mnemonic gestures coming to the listener at the speed of poetry (we see the page/word/poet/stage before we process the text/word/sound/atmosphere but respond to both as if one).
His love for the potential and kinetic energy of poetry spreads across every genre as Bob has championed slam, hip-hop, experimental, TV, internet, and conceptual poetry—to name a few—long before they became accepted by the majority of the poetry gatekeepers. Example: Before Def Jam became synonymous with poets on TV, Bob was producing The United States of Poetry, a series that wasn’t just content with putting popular poets on a stage but finding a diverse range of language poets who embodied different poetic traditions from all across the States and presenting them in dynamic audio/visual settings that pushed the poetics a step further.
Currently, Bob is in Africa with Griot Papa Susso following through on the Bowery Arts and Science’s mission of “seeking to preserve and enhance the oral tradition of poetry via live readings, media documentation and creation, and to restore poetry to the center of our culture, as it is in oral cultures.” Blog reports on their quest to find and document some of the richest oral traditions on the planet can be found at www.griottrail.com.
GRITtv with Laura Flanders: The Future of Language—An Interview with Bob Holman
There are more and more languages disappearing every day and by the end of the century it is possible that half of all existing languages will have vanished. Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club, an anchor for local arts in New York City, says that it is the great tragedy of our time. There are laws to protect plants and animals, why not languages? But Holman isn’t sitting back. He is cultivating poetry, writing poetry, and making documentaries about poets. Most recently a project that re-traces Allen Ginsberg’s trip to India and a documentary film on the griot’s of west Africa. You can learn more about Holman and the Bowery Poetry Club at their site. You can also find Holman’s United States of Poetry, a mult-disk DVD compendium of American Poetry, right here.