Experiencing the art of poetry

A performance by Bob Holman inaugurated Philadelphia's annual 215 Literary Festival.

The Daily Pennsylvanian
October 18, 2002

In an intimate performance mixing reflection on the art of poetry, spoken-poetry performance, humor and audience engagement, spoken-word guru Bob Holman entertained a crowd at the Kelly Writers House yesterday.

The event inaugurated Philadelphia's annual 215 Literary Festival.

"Kelly Writers House is poetry's favorite hiding place," Holman said prior to his presentation entitled "Poetry as destination!"

"I was at a window by a rogue cardinal who refused to fly away. What more could a poet ask for?"

Holman, an active promoter and artist of the spoken word, is, among other things, a winner of an American Book Award, producer of the PBS series The United States of Poetry, proprietor of the influential Bowery Poetry Club and recipient of National Endowment for the Arts funding for a developing digital poetry anthology.

Holman's afternoon presentation drew a diverse audience of about 40 Penn students and community members.

"I'm an aspiring poet," Temple University student Adam Tyson said. "Holman's a really influential guy. I came to see what's happening in poetry these days and to check out his dynamism."

"Poetry is energy transferred!" exclaimed Holman, who recounted West-African oral tradition influences on his work.

College freshman Greg Berger, describing Holman's charismatic deliverance, said, "He doesn't just use language, he performs."

"The audience seemed very into it," College freshman Chloe Frankel said. "There was a very energetic vibe."

Holman's work to promote literary expression coincides well with the focus of the Writers House, according to House Faculty Director Al Filreis.

"Bob Holman understands us, the Writers House, as well as anybody," he said. "He is a poetic entrepreneur in the same sense that we are literary entrepreneurs in the university community."

The 215 Literary Festival Committee, of which Writers House Program Coordinator Tom Devaney is a part, brought Holman to Penn. The weekend-long festival is described on its Web site as "an annual multi-venue event merging rock music and cutting-edge writing."

Other festival events will bring, most notably, authors Dave Eggers, Zadie Smith, Jeffrey Eugenides and the intellectual rock band They Might Be Giants to Philadelphia.

In addition to inaugurating the 215 Festival, the Writers House will also close the festival on Sunday evening with the Paul Green School of Rock Music, a weekly WXPN radio broadcast.