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INTERVIEW WITH DOUG HOLDER

Doug Holder

Write a bio about yourself.

I was born July 5 1955 in Manhattan. I graduated the State College at Buffalo in 1977 with a B.A. in History. Later, in 1997, I got an M.A. in American Literature and Language from Harvard University. I have worked at McLean Hospital since 1982, and for many of those years I have lead poetry workshops for inpatient psychiatric patients. I have been an editorial assistant for the Boston Review, assistant to the poetry editor at Spare Change News, and former president of Stone Soup Poets. I am currently the arts/editor for The Somerville News, director of the Newton Free Library Poetry Series, and host of the Somerville Community Access TV Show: "Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer." I founded the small independent poetry press "Ibbetson Street," in 1998. My poetry and articles have been widely published in the small press, and my books and taped interview with contemporary poets are archived at Buffalo, Brown, and Harvard University libraries.

Describe the room you write in.

I do a lot of my writing at Sherman's Cafe in Union Square, Somerville. I've written poems in many settings: from the comfort of my toilet seat to the back of a cab. Whenever the spirit moves me, as the saying goes.

What are you working on now?

I am working on promoting "Wrestling With My Father," a collection of my poetry, and "Inside the Outside," an anthology of American Avant-Garde poets released by the Presa Press that I am included in.

Your chapbook, Wrestling With My Father, was just published by Yellow Pepper Press. It is a beautifully written chapbook and tribute to your Father. Please talk about this chapbook.

"Wrestling With My father,"was compiled after my father's death in April 2003 at age 86. Before his death I had written a number of poems about our relationship. I also wrote a few after his death. I completed this collection first for myself. I wanted a sense of closure. I wanted to be honest ...I wanted to deal with the ying and yang of our relationship. I hope other fathers and sons can relate to this collection. I feel its themes of conflict and love are universal. Of course I wanted to pass this book on to my family in memory of my Dad.

I read that one of your biggest influences was Henry Roth. Explain why?

I wrote my graduate thesis at Harvard on Roth. It was titled: "Food in the Fiction of Henry Roth..."You can find it at Harvard's Gutman Library. Roth wrote a classic novel: "Call It Sleep," that dealt with a Jewish boy, David Schearl's, assimilation into the New World of the Lower East Side of NYC in the early part of the 20th century. First off I have always loved writing about food. Food is very evocative, and I include it in a lot of my poetry. Second, Roth wrote about a milieu that my older relatives were part of, and would always talk about when I was a boy, often in Yiddish. I was always fascinated about what went on back then: the smells, the taste, the textures...

What writers do you read over and over?

I have so much new reading to do: poetry, books for reviews, etc...that I have very little time to read the same book over and over.

You founded Ibbetson Street Press in what year? Talk about your vision for the press. Have the other editors Diane Robitaille and Richard Wilhelm been involved from the beginning?

I founded the press in 1998, with Richard Wilhelm and my wife Dianne Robitaille. Richard and Dianne have been involved in one degree or the other since its inception. Richard and I are fond of saying we found the Press over "bagels." We had been discussing starting the press at our usual breakfast meeting at Breuger's Bagels in Porter Square, Cambridge.

What type of work do you look for as editor?

Any thing that hits me on an emotional or gut level.

You have done so much for the community of Somerville and the surrounding areas. I would like to start out this section of the interview asking you to talk about the Somerville Writer's Festival you founded.

I founded the festival with Tim Gager, a local writer and literary activist. We have put on three festivals so far. When The Somerville News was taken over by the Norton and Tauro families they wanted to improve the image of the paper.Tim and I thought holding a writers' festival would do just that. So for the past few years we have put on a festival held at Jimmy Tingle's Off- Broadway Theatre or The Somerville Theatre. We have had such readers as Franz Wright, Afaa Michael Weaver, and novelist Robert Olen Butler, to name a few.

For The Somerville News, you are the Arts Editor. How long have you been writing for them? Every week you interview a writer, this must be so rewarding and interesting. Talk about your experience so far. Adding to this also mention your Poet To Poet/Writer To Writer Program on the Somerville Community Access Program.

I have been writing for The Somerville news for about 5 years now. I love interviewing people. It gives me the opportunity to talk to people I normally wouldn't have the opportunity to. I have always loved interview shows. I grew up listening to Barry Farber, Long John Nebble, and other radio personalities on WOR radio in NYC. On TV I watched David Susskind, Dick Cavett, and Alan Berk. Now I have a chance to do what they did, granted, on a much smaller scale. I love to explore the creative process, and I love to be surrounded by interesting people who have something to say.

Every Saturday in Harvard Sq. (Cambridge, MA), downstairs at Finagle A Bagel, a group of writers from all over meet at 9:00AM, hence the name Bagel Bards. Since I have been attending this, I have met so many wonderful people. I look forward to going every week. Please talk about how you and Harris Gardner came up with this idea. Attendance Saturday morning has been growing and more people are becoming involved. This must be so exciting for you and Harris to see. What is this like for you?

My idea for "Bagels with the Bards" came from comedians. I was reading that for many years a group of comedians met informally at the "Stage Deli," in NYC for years. People would come and go, just shoot the breeze, talk shop, whatever. I thought this would be great for poets. A poet, Doug Worth, had written me about how cliquish he found the poetry scene in Boston and Cambridge. So I approached my friend Harris Gardner, and we came up with the name, and launched it in the basement of "Finagle-A-Bagel" in Harvard square, where we met for breakfast for awhile. I love it...its like having a secret club or something.

There are other magazines you are involved with. Discuss your role. You are also on the Board for The Wilderness Retreat in Littleton, MA. Discuss this.

I am the Boston editor for Poesy Magazine http://poesy.org, a regular contributor to the Small Press Review, on the advisory board of 'the new renaissance " literary magazine, http://tnrlitmag.net , a fairly regular contributor to "Spare Change News," and the book review editor for the online journal: The Wilderness House Literary Review http://whlreview.com

the Wilderness House Literary Retreat was started by Steve Glines on a nature reserve in Littleton, Mass....a short drive from Boston. Steve asked me to helpout with publicity and literary guests. We have had the late poet Robert Creeley, Atlantic fiction editor C. Michael Curtis, Hallie Ephron, Afaa Michael Weaver, Suzanne Berger, Lois Ames...to name a few.

I am amazed at all your energy. You have heard me say that a zillion times now. You have given so much to the writers and community. Would you like to mention anything else here.

I am blessed with an abundance of energy. I also don't have kids, so I have a lot more time to devote to this. I find by giving to the community you reap rewards too.

Thank you so much for the interview Doug.

Doug Holder
http://www.ibbetsonpress.com
http://dougholder.blogspot.com
http://authorsden.com/douglasholder
http://somervillenewswritersfestival.com


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