Poetry for Breakfast – The BagelBards, and How They Came to Be

I spoke with Doug Holder last week about the BagelBards, a group of poetry readers and writers that meets regularly in Cambridge.  They’re the group behind the 24 Hour Theater project that’s on the ccae front page.  Doug Holder founded the group three years ago, and we talked a bit about how the group got its start.

“A friend of mine, a poet in Cambridge, called me a few years ago, and basically talked about how he felt isolated as a poet,” Doug said.  “He was bemoaning a lack of community, and so I thought, let’s get people together and read.”

Doug started the meetings with his colleague Harris Gardner.  Doug got his MA in Literature from Harvard, but both were unhappy with the lack of poetry happening outside of the university setting.  “A lot of why we started was a desire to take poetry out of the Academy,” Doug told me.  So they decided to meet on weekend mornings, down the street from Harvard at the Finagle a’ Bagle.

“We were two Jewish kids, and we ate bagels, so we called ourselves the BagelBards,” says Doug.  Among being a Bard, Doug is also founder of the Ibetson Street Press and has published over 40 books of poetry and 20 issues of the literary journal Ibetson Street.  “Now, we get anywhere from 20-25 people.  There are core members who come, and then there are always different people, who range in age from people in their 20s to people as old as 70, and everywhere from unpublished poets to university professors.”

The BagelBards have since published two anthologies made up of original work by its members.  Poet Afaa Michael Weaver, a BagelBarder himself, wrote the foreword to the first anthology.

The group has since moved from Finagle in Harvard Square (it moved when Finagle moved, down the street).  Now they meet alternately between the Au Bon Pain’s in Davis and Central Square.  “We generally meet on Sunday mornings.  It’s very informal—people come and chat and we help each other out.”

Doug confesses the group is comprised of “very unusual people.  But we’ve become friends, we throw parties.”

If you’d like to join them, look for the large group in discussion on weekend mornings at your local Au Bon Pain.  Or try the 24 Hour Theater project, which begins next week on Friday (9/21).


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