Sunday, March 9, 2008


Breaking Bagels with the Bards

The scene. A lone man or woman. Perhaps a poet. A writer. A romantic notion, no? In the end, every writer and human is profoundly alone. Writers definitely need time alone. But like all warm-blooded mammals; we also need a sense of community. So when I got a letter from Cambridge poet Douglas Worth, about his experiences with the cliquishness of the poetry community, and his feelings of isolation; I decided to speak to my good friend and poetry powerbroker Harris Gardner. We had been meeting for breakfast for awhile at the “Au Bon Pain” in Harvard Square. I called Harris with my idea for a group titled: “Breaking Bagels with the Bards,” and like a moth on a cheap suit he was on the bandwagon. We decided to form a casual group of writers and poets that would meet in the basement of a Harvard Square bagel joint “Finagle-a-Bagel.” Harris supplied a steady stream of emails, and both of us spread the word with our colleagues and friends. It was slow going at first. But over the months the group started to grow. One member, Irene Koronas, an experimental poet who has a healthy obsession with words, became an official scribe, and sent her “Word catcher,” email newsletter out to all members. Steve Glines, a writer, and a computer whiz, was instrumental in creating our online magazine “The Wilderness House Literary Review” , and our first “Bagel Bard” anthology. The group became populated with folks like Simmons College professor Afaa Michael Weaver, Boston University professor Tino Villanueva, MIT professor John Hildebidle, not to mention poets Tomas O’Leary, Molly Lynn Watt, Ann Cahart, Julia Carlson, Deborah M. Priestly, Linda Haviland Conte, Pam Rosenblatt, Matt Rosenthal, Mike Adamo, Marc Goldfinger, Richard Wihelm, Chad Parenteau, Pat Brodie, Philip Burnham, Tom Daley, Reggie Gibson, David Slavitt, Richard Wollman, to name just a few. Ellen Steinbaum, a Boston Globe columnist, and a member of our group wrote a column about us, and there were articles about the group in the “Cambridge Chronicle,” and “The Somerville News.” Several publishers joined our organization: Gloria Mindock of the “Cervena Barva press,” Jasen Sousa of “J-Rock Publishing,” and Shirley Gerald ware of “Fresh,” magazine.

Eventually “Finagle-A-Bagel,’ closed, and we moved our group to the “Au Bon Pain” in Davis Square, Somerville. By this time the group was large and animated. Martha Boss, our resident artist, painted a group portrait of a number of the Bards, and the painting was on exhibit at the “Fort Point Channel Open Studios” in Boston. (Until I bought it of course!)

Since founding the group many of our members have gone on to publish through people they met in the group and more than a few have gotten reading gigs. A number of the “Bards” read at the grand reopening of the “Grolier Poetry Book Shop,” a grand day indeed!

Harris Gardner and I are quite pleased with the results of all this. We think this is a fine example of how grassroots efforts can create community, and bonds among writers and fellow human beings. ----Doug Holder

“Bagel Bards” meets every Saturday at the “Au Bon Pain” in Davis Square, Somerville. All invited.