Tuesday, August 11, 2009

There's no shortage of conversation when the Bagel Bards meet.


There's no shortage of conversation when the Bagel Bards meet.

By Danielle Dreilinger, Globe Correspondent

It was 10:30 on a Saturday morning and cacophony filled the Davis Square Au Bon Pain. Thirty members of the “Bagel Bards” entirely occupied half the café, leaning in to carry on 11 separate conversations. Cofounder Doug Holder pushed his glasses on top of his head. 79-year-old, beret-topped Bert Stern of Somerville signed copies of his new book. Latecomers stole chairs.

Supposedly no one cares about poetry anymore. But here, every week, poets rule — feeding their muse with shop talk and cinnamon-chip scones.

And now the five-year-old group has a permanent symbolic home: management has allowed members to hang a plaque in their corner behind the muffin case.

The meeting place “kind of started with my obsession,” Holder admitted. He’d written several books inspired by the legendary Harvard Square Au Bon Pain. (He also liked that its name sounded a bit literary, being French.)

He and Harris Gardner of Boston, 62, started the group after a friend said poets outside the academy needed company and support. They met for a year in a now-defunct Harvard Finagle a Bagel before relocating to Au Bon Pain, alternating between Somerville and Central Square, Cambridge cafes before settling into Davis a year ago.

Holder’s friend was right: Bards said the meetup filled a need. “It’s such a great thing to come to,” said Elizabeth Quinlan, 63, who regularly travels from Roslindale.

“A lot of people are saying if you’re a poet you have to do things in isolation,” said Amy Tighe of Somerville, 51, a realtor, poet, and former storyteller. “This can really carry you.”

True, they typically talk of practical matters, not prosody -- “Chapbooks, poetry, publishers” -- said Irene Koronas of Cambridge, 66 -- and computer fixes, and her daughter’s strange rash. The rhinestones on her glasses sparkled.

Second-time attendee Reza Tokaloo of Somerville brought printouts of his new work. When he left, they were scattered across the table next to stacks of the poets’ own books plus classics like T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and Rilke’s "Letters to a Young Poet."

He would soon learn. “Sometimes the newcomers will try that. And we’re polite,” Koronas said.

Holder seemed to have four arms as he simultaneously joked about nominating a friend for a Pulitzer (“It costs $50,” he said. “Then he can say he was nominated”), pointed out a Bard who’d been featured on NPR, sold his new collection of interviews to Gardner, and stumped for his upcoming New York reading.

Two Bards reviewed poetry festival paperwork. Another was overheard telling a photographer that sure, there were copies on hand of “… the Bagel Bards anthology but this is MY book.”

Indeed, they’re a well-published lot -- often by each other. Holder, Somerville’s de facto poet laureate, runs Ibbetson Street Press, hosts a cable-access poetry show, and writes a column for the weekly Somerville News.

After joining the group, several others Bards started their own shoestring-budget presses, including Cervena Barva by Gloria Mindock of Somerville and Steve Glines’s Littleton-based Wilderness House.

“This group has spawned a lot of activity. A lot of presses, getting read, getting acknowledged,” said Koronas, poetry editor for Holder's and Glines’s magazines. Now, she said, “This is it for the small poetry scene.”

Still, Saturdays remain notably low-pressure and no-mystique. Some higher-profile poets like Afaa Michael Weaver frequent the group but competition isn’t even a side dish.

“It’s not particularly bragging here to say you’re a poet,” said Molly Lynn Watt of Cambridge, 71, who puts together an annual Bagel Bard anthology—a publication that is open to all regulars.

It’s “a celebration when someone comes out with a book,” Quinlan said.

Showing up doesn’t guarantee publication beyond the anthology. “Some of us are really good and some of us aren’t,” Tighe said.

There seemed to be only a few people that didn't join the party: other patrons.

“We don’t have any positive response from other customers because it’s noisy, they take a lot of space,” said associate manager Sujata Pun. Café-goers gave the boisterous Bards a wide berth. Outnumbered, most took their coffee to go.

Until the Bards' plaque claimed to their corner for good, Barbara Bialick’s poem held its place. Where the prosaic might see a quick pick-me-up, Bialick took the poets’ position:

“The circus breads of life
on display around me
are tempting me to have my own fiesta…”

The Bagel Bards take up a large corner of Au Bon Pain.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bagel Bard Plaque to be appointed at the Au Bon Pain-Davis Square, Somerville

Steve Glines has designed the plaque that will be appearing at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square, Somerville in the coming weeks. The Au Bon Pain is the official home of the literary group the "Bagel Bards"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Somerville's Bagel Bards find an "Official" Home.

Somerville's Bagel Bards find an "Official" Home.

( Somerville, Mass.)

The management of the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square in Somerville, Mass. have given the go ahead for the Bagel Bards http://www.bagelbards.com a literary group in Somerville, Mass. to commission the design of a plaque to designate the Au Bon Pain as "Home of the Bagel Bards" It will be placed in the section of the cafe where these poets and writers regularly meet. The Bards, founded by Doug Holder and Harris Gardner in March of 2004, started out in the basement of Finagle-A-Bagel in Harvard Square, and then moved to the Central Square (Cambridge) Au Bon Pain and later to its hopefully permanent home in Davis Square. Doug Holder, a poet and journalist for The Somerville News, stated: "The Au Bon Pain has been good to us. They have provided a space for our Saturday morning meetings and they have helped us
form a community of writers. It also has been an inspiration for his own poetry Holder said:"I have written two collections of poetry based on my experiences there: " No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain" ( sunnyoutside) and "Dreams at the Au Bon Pain" ( Ibbetson Street) Harris Gardner, his co-founder, said that two artists from the group will be commissioned to design the plaque.

"The Bagel Bards is an egalitarian literary group and has writers that rank from professors to paupers, to the published to the unpublished," according to Holder. Such well-known poets as Afaa Michael Weaver, Miriam Levine, Tino Villanueva, Kathleen Spivack, Clayton Eshleman, Dianna Der Hovanessian have attended the group, as well as respected local bards like: Barbara Bialick, Zvi Sesling, CD Collins, Timothy Gager, Irene Koronas,, Mary Buchinger Bodwell, Lo Galluccio, Gloria Mindock, and others. Novelist Paul Stone and Luke Salisbury are regular attendees, as well as playwrights, science writers, journalists and other disciplines. Steve Glines, and Molly Lynn Watt work to put out a yearly anthology of the Bards' work, and Glines founded the Wilderness House Literary review http://whlreview.com an online lit journal.

It was also announced that the Bards have a special shelf at the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, the famed all-poetry bookstore in Harvard Square. Holder said: " This is very gratifying thing to happen. This is a great grassroots group, we all pull for each other, and I hope it goes on for years to come."

* Bagel Bard Poet Barbara Bialick has a framed displayed poem there called: "Sitting Alone at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square"

Sitting Alone in Au Bon Pain, Davis Square

I like sitting here inside a land of bread,
cookies, square-shaped crescents,
fluorescently lit and bright
like they’re having a party.

The circus breads of life
on display around me
are tempting me to have my own fiesta:

“Just take one mammoth shortbread cookie
painted chocolate on one side…”
they urge, and I rise like cake
from my seat, mesmerized by dough—
butter, wheat, chocolate, and sugar—
the classic signs of civilization,
which fill me with fertile flavor
under my tongue,
already only a memory
begging for more.

By Barbara Bialick
of the Bagel Bards

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Bagel Bards by Miriam Levine

The Bagel Bards

By Miriam Levine

Any group that names itself "The Bagel Bards" can't take itself too seriously. Irreverence rules at the 9 am to 12 noon, weekly Saturday morning meetings in Davis Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, at Au Bon Pain--I'd call it Au Mal Pain, though one Bard praises the frosted cinnamon rolls.

Last Saturday morning, I asked this informal group of poets to jot down what they liked about the Bards. "Being with The Bards is better than water boarding," Irene Koronas wrote. "Saturday at the bards allows me to go unmedicated for the morning," another Bard commented. And another, "Love it--love it. It's the only place I can come and not be mugged."

Her most recent book is The Dark Opens, winner of the 2007 Autumn House Poetry Prize. She is the author of In Paterson, a novel, Devotion: A Memoir, three poetry collections, and A Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. Her work has appeared in Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, and Ploughshares, among many other places.

A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts writing fellowship and grants from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, she was a fellow at Yaddo, Hawthornden Castle, Le Château de Lavigny, Villa Montalvo, Fundación Valparaíso, and the Millay Colony for the Arts.

She is Professor Emerita at Framingham State College, where she chaired the English Department and was Coordinator of the Arts and Humanities Program.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Miriam Levine now divides her time between Florida and Massachusetts. Currently she is at work on a new novel and a poetry collection.

Athena Pappas wrote a poem on the spot: "that moody cepheid/ clears the window/ for the bagel bards/unaware of my pulse." For those of you, like me, who didn't know: a cepheid is a star that has used up its main supply of hydrogen fuel, is unstable and pulsates.

Sometimes a poet will read a finished poem--we are not a workshop--or bring his or her recently published book, but mostly we talk and laugh.

Doug Holder, who with Harris Gardner founded the group in 2004, remembers past meetings: "I know we had the noted Clayton Eshleman visit us. His pants . . . looked for all the world like resplendent pajama bottoms." He also heard Hugh Fox hold forth on his "theories of Mayan Culture and Kaballah." Recently the poet and artist Irene Koronas told me about her 'course of study.' She reads the books that come to her by chance. Lately chance brought her a discarded carton of books by the Greek philosophers--did she pick them up out of the trash? She's reading Plato, and when done with a book, blocks out certain words with colors. I should have asked her, What colors, Irene? And how do you decide what words get the color treatment? Gloria Mindock will soon be traveling to Europe to read from her new collection of poems. She'll be spending time in Romania. Why Romania, Gloria?

Here's to unstable, pulsating stars clearing the windows for this democratic group! Anyone can join.

About Bagel Bard Miriam Levine.....

Her most recent book is The Dark Opens, winner of the 2007 Autumn House Poetry Prize. She is the author of In Paterson, a novel, Devotion: A Memoir, three poetry collections, and A Guide to Writers' Homes in New England. Her work has appeared in Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, and Ploughshares, among many other places.

A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts writing fellowship and grants from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, she was a fellow at Yaddo, Hawthornden Castle, Le Château de Lavigny, Villa Montalvo, Fundación Valparaíso, and the Millay Colony for the Arts.

She is Professor Emerita at Framingham State College, where she chaired the English Department and was Coordinator of the Arts and Humanities Program.

Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Miriam Levine now divides her time between Florida and Massachusetts. Currently she is at work on a new novel and a poetry collection.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Photo Study of Bards by Melissa Shook and Zvi Sesling

ZVI SESLING ( Photos 1 to 3) Melissa Shook ( 4 and beyond...)

( Click on Pictures To Enlarge)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Upon Hearing of Your Death in Your 34th Year.... (For Mike Amado)

( Mike Amado second from right)

Upon Hearing of Your Death in Your 34th Year

For Mike Amado

I fear losing your brightness to shades of memory,
the way you lean forward when you are being kind,
which is all the time,
the way you build your poetry in spades
and it comes out in hearts,
The way the drum beats our hearts beat the words beat.

Within the hour,
I dig into my box of childhood treasures, so insignificant now,
for two polished Winged Victories for your eyelids,
to pay Chiron’s fee and then dredge up three
lint-covered Valiums for Cerberus,
who like a good dog will eat Anything.
I am worrying that if you can’t translate
into three languages on a good day
you might end up excluded from
The Elysian Fields Anthology.

Nobody’s fault you grew up grappling
with a pain shaking you by the balls
over a cliff, each breath reminding you
when the pain stopped you would be dead,
a promise it kept (like a heartless sundial ever
burnishing the Spoken Warrior’s words).

There is a question poetry asks of common sense:
Is it our language that leaves us incredulous
of any reality that doesn’t measure itself
by a beginning and an end?
Is Plath’s Ariel simply a nightlight
in a black, chaotic universe?
Ah, there’s the rub.
Who was it exactly named the stars?
The constellations? and would that be enough?
To live on in that way? When art crosses the line
becoming myth you might oh so quickly
forget the name of this young poet.
But I would be happy to remember this line
of poetry on any battlefield life takes me,
in any last breath if there were time,
“There is a river I call Sky.”

--------- Linda Larson is a Bagel Bard and former editor of "Spare Change News."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Harris Gardner , Doug Holder and the Bagel Bards to read at the Somerville Library Central Branch 6:30 to 8:30PM April 27, 2009

Bagel Bard Poetry reading at the Somerville Central Library

The Central Library, located at 79 Highland Avenue

Monday April 27 @ 6:30-8:30 pm

Special readings by founders: Doug Holder and Harris Gardner as well as the other Bards.

According to Regie O’Hare Gibson, a Bagel Bard is “a poet that is glazed and ring-shaped whose poetry has a tough, chewy texture usually made of leavened words and images dropped briefly into nearly boiling conversations on Saturday mornings -- often baked into a golden brown.” The Bards featured in this reading represent part of the 51 poet members who come together as writers over breakfast every Saturday morning at the Au Bon Pain in Davis Square. Every poet -- famous, unknown, or somewhere in between -- is welcome to share breakfast with the Bagel Bards while baking up some tasty treats.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bagel Bard Gloria Mindock will tour Romania in Spring 2009 for her new poetry collection: "At the Heaven's Gates"

Gloria Mindock’s book, “At the Heaven’s Gates” will be published by Cogito Press in Oradea, Romania. with translation by Flavia Cosma.

The editor/publisher, Mr. Ioan Tepelea will write the introduction in her book. Mr. Tepelea has published Gloria’s poetry before in an anthology called “Murmur of Voices” and in the magazine he publishes called, UNU: REVISTA DE CULTURA.

Gloria and her translator are planning a book tour with her publisher in Romania in May of this year.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Harris Gardner makes a home for Bagels and Bards at the Au Bon Pain Cafe in Davis Square, Somerville

(Gardner at the Au Bon Pain cafe in Davis Sq.,
Somerville home of the Bagel Bards)

Article about Harris Gardner ( co-founder of Bagel Bards) in the Northeastern Alumni Magazine

The People's Poet

“It brings community together—a common ground, you might say,” says poet-about-town Harris Gardner, LA’69, reflecting on the unifying power of verse.

Gardner expresses his enthusiasm for his craft by writing prolifically—a collection of his poems, Among Us, was published last year. He also hosts regular poetry events around the Greater Boston area.

He recalls being introduced to poetry at age fifteen by his tenth-grade teacher: “She gave us an assignment to write a poem. And I said, ‘This is fine; I’ll try another one.’ Just because I wanted to, not because anyone told me I had to.”

To share the vitality he’s found in poetry, Gardner, who lives in Boston, organizes the city’s National Poetry Month Festival, featuring both established and emerging poets. The eighth annual fest was held this April at the Boston Public Library. Writers read from their works in a six-hour marathon.

Three years ago, with friend and fellow poetry enthusiast Doug Holder, Gardner founded a weekly poets group called Breaking Bagels with the Bards. The name came from the group’s original meeting place, the Finagle a Bagel in Harvard Square. When that eatery closed, the Bards switched to alternating meetings at the Au Bon Pain outposts in Davis Square and Central Square. High school graduates to PhDs, the Bards run a wide socioeconomic gamut. Anthologies of members’ poems attract applause outside the café walls.

When he’s not schmoozing with the Bards, Gardner can be found at Borders Books in Downtown Crossing, where another organization he emcees, Tapestry of Voices, invites poets to read each month.

This busy artist, who also finds the time to run his own real estate business, believes the literary arts fill a basic need. “Poetry is very learnable,” he says. “At the community level, people can learn to appreciate poetry, to enjoy poetry, to indulge in poetry, and even to write poetry.

“Even if they’ve never done it before.”

— Nancy Rabinowitz, MA’90

Saturday, January 24, 2009

"I Want" by Ingerid White

Ingerid White is a new Bagel Bard and she sent me this poem in response to an article she read about the late Mike Amado in The Somerville News.


I want to feel

that life isn't a black sky

I want to know in the marrow of my bones

that there really is a place called home

I want to fly

in my mind

like I did in my dreams as a child

I want this bitterness to leave me

I want to smile


I want to feel the grass under my feet

soft and pliant against my skin

I want to gaze at the white-streaked-blue afternoon sky

and feel content

I want you and I to know what we mean

when we say what we do

I simply want

me and you


About Ingerid White:

I am a 1972 graduate of The Ohio State University, where I earned a bachelor of arts degree in Journalism, with the concentration being in News/Editorial.

After graduating from college, I worked for a summer as a tour guide in my home town of Tampa for Busch Gardens, and then traveled to Tokyo to see if I wanted to marry my fiance - a Japanese exchange student I'd met my sophomore year. I started off teaching American Conversation at a language school, and segued into editing the house organ for Canon, Inc. for the remainder of my two-year stay in Japan.

I returned to the 'States late in 1974, moving soon after to NYC where I worked in advertising and publishing primarily for seven years.

I divide my time currently between Norway and the Boston area, where my son lives. I am currently looking for work here in order to be able to stay. At the moment I am representing a Norwegian author who has recently published a translation of his latest book into English and is marketing it here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bagel Bard Pam Rosenblatt's "On How to Read The Manual" Reviewed

By Pam Rosenblatt
2009; 26pp; Pa; Ibbetson Street Press,
25 School Street, Somerville, MA 02143
to order http://lulu.com/ibbetsonpress

What we have is a poeticized study of how to existentialistically understand reality: paintings, books, friends, lovers, TV, even sandwiches, cats, dogs and, by extension, anything and everything that surrounds us. And ironically, for all its non-poetic-game-playing simplicity, the poetry itself is a real psychic-door opener: “Harris, you asked, How do you read a painting?..../ Look wide-eyed at the work./Close your eyes and open them,/And hope what you see and derive/Are what the artist wants our mind’s eye/To see and derive Let the images/Abstract, realistic, surrealistic/Take meaning in your eyes....//A smile between you and the canvus,/As though you’re best friends,/Understanding each other, /Understanding that the artist/Allowed this to happen....” (“On How to Read a Painting,” pp. 10-11).
Rosenblatt is a veritable reality-transformer, taking the ambiguous and difficult, the almost-impossible, and giving you some rule-games to play to turn everything into acceptably understandable.
The core-secret is passivity, getting rid of all the usual babblings and scrabblings of the psyche that interfere with direct perception, and allowing The Real is stream in on your inner psyche: “View view stars stars stars/In the night’s sky sky/Sky and imagine the amount/ Of time time time it takes/For you to view that star/That may have exploded/Years years years before.../Time/is time...until time is gone/Is gone like youth like seasons/Like nature...” (“On How to Read Time,” pp.3-4.).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

THE HOLY FOOL (for Mike Amado, 1975 - 2009)

Beloved Bagel Bard Mike Amado passed away...here is a poem from his friend poet Carolyn Gregory:

THE HOLY FOOL (for Mike Amado, 1975 - 2009)

Tapping congas in a red shirt,
he brought music to all of us
from ordinary life
where magic does not rule.

Non-listeners did not challenge him
when he uttered his poems
directly from an open heart.
He was wiser than his years.

A transplant failed
and years in dialysis taught him
how to blur out time
when needed,
how to fly like an eagle
above his body.

He brought me back to youth
when animals and gypsies caught fire
and those who witnessed
became Holy Fools.

He was one, too,
turning ruin to beauty,
his mortal pain soaring
on careful wings.

--Carolyn Gregory, 1/3/09