Ten or More Questions with Bob Holman, Village Poet Extraordinaire
Bob Holman has been making poetry downtown for over 25 years. Among his many endeavors, he is perhaps best known locally as the impresario of the Bowery Poetry Club, founded in 2001 and morphed into Bowery Arts + Science last year. He is the author of 16 works of poetry.
We’re delighted that Holman is also a contributor to Greenwich Village Stories, the anthology of art, poetry and prose released this month by GVSHP and Rizzoli. It’s available next Tuesday at Three Lives & Company, the Strand, and other local bookstores.
Without further ado, we’ll let Holman speak for himself. We found him too entertaining to stop at 10 questions.
Where did you grow up?
Kentucky and Ohio.
What brought you to NYC?
Kentucky and Ohio.
When I was 9, I wrote my first poem and took it to the teacher, who said, “Oh this is such a wonderful poem, Robert! Where did you copy it from?”
What exactly do you teach at Columbia and NYU, and why?
At Columbia, “Exploding Text: Poetry Performance” is the only cross-genre course in the graduate School of the Arts. For me any poem can be performed, or used as the basis for an installation. I also think it’s crazy that after two or three years of studying writing, your first public appearance as a poet is you at a microphone with no knowledge of what to do live. At NYU I teach “Poetry Census” as part of my work with endangered languages.
Has your style changed over the years?
I push more edges now.
How would you feel if you didn’t have a notebook by your bed?
You’ve been working on projects on endangered languages. How did you get interested in that?
Hiphop. When you study the African-American oral tradition and learn about the griot traditions of West Africa, you learn how many small languages are dying. We can’t afford to lose the knowledge, wisdom and culture that are in these languages, just like we need endangered species of plants and animals to keep the ecosystem healthy. There’s an Ecology of Consciousness, too.
How do you feel about the transition from the Bowery Poetry Club to Bowery Arts & Science?
The partnership with Duane Park, a live jazz-burlesque supper club, is one of the stranger in the city, but it’s working out fantastically. We share a deep love for the populist arts of the Bowery. It’s also great for poetry sustainability – they pay the rent!
Are there any writers’ bars around anymore?
I like the Ukrainian Sports Club but I’m not saying where it is.
What Village restaurant, store, park, experience or otherwise would you recommend to a friend?
I’d recommend getting lost. Having no guide book. Just walking wherever your nose leads you. Create your own walking tour. Then end up at the Dylan Thomas Room at the White Horse and hoist one for both Dylans, and read and write some poems about your excursion.
What NYC book, movie or song?
Hey, equal rights for poetry! Frank O’Hara’s The Day Lady Died.
If money were no object, what would you do with a storefront and where?
Why resurrect the old Bowery Poetry Club, of course, as a 24-hour Poetry Emergency boite and chill! 308 Bowery.
What can any one person do to keep the Village lovable?
Don’t walk and text, please.
Can you see yourself living somewhere else?
I keep saying Bamako, where music is speech, but I can’t seem to lever myself off the Bowery.
Please join us at one of these special events to celebrate the one-of-a-kind “Greenwich Village Stories,” a fundraiser for GVSHP.