Bob Holman

Bob Holman

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Bob Holman is a poet and poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

 activist in the United States.


After graduating from Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

 in 1970, Bob Holman founded, with Sara Miles and Susie Timmons, the NYC Poetry Calendar, a free monthly publication with all the readings and poets "on the same page". This led to his first poetry job in 1977: with the CETA Artists Project, the largest federally-funded artist project since the WPA
Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious New Deal agency, employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings and roads, and operated large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects...

. This in turn led to a run coordinating the Monday Night Series at St. Mark's Poetry Project
St. Mark's Poetry Project
The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church was founded in 1966 in the East Village of Manhattan by the poet and translator Paul Blackburn, it has been a crucial venue for new and experimental poetries for over four decades....

 and his later becoming the Coordinator there.

Holman was instrumental in the reopening of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Nuyorican Poets Café
The Nuyorican Poets Café is a non-profit organization in Alphabet City, Manhattan. It is a bastion of the Nuyorican art movement in New York City, USA, and has become a forum for poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy and theatre.-History:...

 in 1987, and was the original slammaster there. He is generally credited with bringing the poetry slam to New York City, where it eventually penetrated the mass media and commercial markets.

Holman was initially a controversial figure in the poetry slam scene. Some, including Poetry Slam founder Marc Smith, had said that Holman brought out the worst parts of poetry slams, including commercialism (his poetry recording label, Mouth Almighty, sponsored a winning team in the 1997 National Slam), whimsicality (Holman coined the phrase "the best poet always loses", and created the "Hideous Sudden-Death Haiku Overtime Round" for ties), and a who-cares attitude. Others felt he brought a sense of irony and openness that helped define Slam as a performance genre rather than a school of poetry.

In 2002, Holman founded the Bowery Poetry Club
Bowery Poetry Club
The Bowery Poetry Club is a New York City poetry performance space founded by Bob Holman in 2002. Located at 308 Bowery, between Bleecker and Houston Streets in Manhattan's East Village, the BPC provides a home base for established and upcoming artists...

 in New York City, where he is the proprietor, and regularly, host. The Bowery Poetry Club is home to a weekly poetry slam called NYC-Urbana, held on Tuesdays. In a 2005 interview
An interview is a conversation between two people where questions are asked by the interviewer to obtain information from the interviewee.- Interview as a Method for Qualitative Research:"Definition" -...

, Holman said,

Holman has directed plays for poets' theater, including work by Alfred Jarry
Alfred Jarry
Alfred Jarry was a French writer born in Laval, Mayenne, France, not far from the border of Brittany; he was of Breton descent on his mother's side....

, Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara
Tristan Tzara was a Romanian and French avant-garde poet, essayist and performance artist. Also active as a journalist, playwright, literary and art critic, composer and film director, he was known best for being one of the founders and central figures of the anti-establishment Dada movement...

, Vladimir Mayakovsky
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky was a Russian and Soviet poet and playwright, among the foremost representatives of early-20th century Russian Futurism.- Early life :...

, W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

, Edwin Denby
Edwin Denby
Edwin Denby may refer to:* Edwin Denby , U.S. poet, novelist, dance critic* Edwin Denby , U.S. politician, Secretary of Navy, noted in the Teapot Dome Scandal...

, John Ashbery
John Ashbery
John Lawrence Ashbery is an American poet. He has published more than twenty volumes of poetry and won nearly every major American award for poetry, including a Pulitzer Prize in 1976 for his collection Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror. But Ashbery's work still proves controversial...

, Robert Kelly
Robert Kelly (poet)
Robert Kelly is an American poet associated with the deep image group.-Early life and education:Kelly was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Samuel Jason and Margaret Rose Kelly née Kane, in 1935. He did his undergraduate studies at the City College of the City University of New York, graduating in 1955...

, Ed Sanders
Ed Sanders
Ed Sanders is an American poet, singer, social activist, environmentalist, author and publisher and has been a longtime member of the band The Fugs. He has been called a bridge between the Beat and Hippie generations.-Biography:...

. He appeared in the improvisational opera "Mirror Man" by David Thomas
David Thomas (musician)
David Lynn Thomas is an American singer, songwriter, and musician.He was one of the founding members of the short-lived protopunkers Rocket From The Tombs , where he went by the name of Crocus Behemoth, and of punk group Pere Ubu . He has also released several solo albums...

 of Pere Ubu
Pere Ubu
Pere Ubu is an experimental rock music group from Cleveland, Ohio.Père Ubu may also refer to:* Ubu, the enigmatic central figure of a series of French plays by Alfred Jarry, including Ubu Roi, and subsequent plays Ubu Cocu and Ubu Enchaîné...

. Holman was one of the founders of Mouth Almighty/Mercury Records, with Bill Adler, Jim Coffman and Sekou Sundiata
Sekou Sundiata
Sekou Sundiata was an African-American poet and performer, as well as a teacher at The New School in New York City. Famous students include musicians Ani DiFranco and Mike Doughty. His plays include The Circle Unbroken is a Hard Bop, The Mystery of Love, Udu, and The 51st Dream State...


Teaching positions have included The New School
The New School
The New School is a university in New York City, located mostly in Greenwich Village. From its founding in 1919 by progressive New York academics, and for most of its history, the university was known as the New School for Social Research. Between 1997 and 2005 it was known as New School University...

 and Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

; currently, he is a Visiting Professor at Columbia University School of the Arts
Columbia University School of the Arts
The Columbia University School of the Arts , also known simply as the School of the Arts or as SoA, is the division of the university that offers Master of Fine Arts degrees in Film, Visual Arts, Theatre Arts, and Writing, as well as a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies...

 and at New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

. Along with Margery Snyder, Holman is one of the poetry guides at

He was married to artist Elizabeth Murray, who died in 2007. They have three children.

From Holman's website :

"From Slam to Hiphop, from performance poetry to spoken word, Bob Holman has been a central figure in the reemergence of poetry in our culture. Recently dubbed a member of the "Poetry Pantheon" by the New York Times Magazine and featured in a Henry Louis Gates, Jr. profile in The New Yorker, Holman has previously been crowned "Ringmaster of the Spoken Word" (New York Daily News), "Poetry Czar" (Village Voice), "Dean of the Scene" (Seventeen), and “this generation’s Ezra Pound,” (San Francisco’s Poetry Flash
Poetry Flash
Poetry Flash is a literary magazine and website based in the San Francisco Bay Area; it has been called "an institution in the Bay Area's literary culture". It publishes literary reviews, poetry, interviews, and essays as well as an extensive calendar of literary activities on the west coast of...

). His latest collection of poems, a collaboration with Chuck Close
Chuck Close
Charles Thomas "Chuck" Close is an American painter and photographer who achieved fame as a photorealist, through his massive-scale portraits...

, A Couple of Ways of Doing Something, was first exhibited at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum during the Venice Biennale and will be published by Aperture in fall 06. The TV series he produced for PBS, The United States of Poetry, won the INPUT, International Public Television Award; he founded Mouth Almighty/Mercury Records, the first ever major spoken word label, in 1995; ran the infamous poetry slams at the Nuyorican Poets Café from 1988-1996; and was a host/administrator at the St. Marks Poetry Project 1977-84. He is currently Visiting Professor of Writing at the Columbia School of the Arts and the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Founder/Proprietor of the Bowery Poetry Club, and Artistic Director of Study Abroad on the Bowery, a certificate program in applied poetics."


  • Panic*DJ! Bob Holman Live at the Club LaMama - 1990
  • The United States of Poetry- PBS. Directed by Mark Pellington. Produced with Josh Blum.
  • Slam - 1999
  • SlamNation - 1998
  • Poetry Spots - 1987-95 -- 70 videos in 6 seasons for WNYC-TV

External links