Poetry Organizer Doug Holder

To Assume Leadership of Newton Free Library Series


By Susie Davidson

Advocate Correspondent


NEWTON - April 9 was the last reading for Robert K. Johnson, longtime host and founder of the Newton Free Library Poetry Series.


Accepting the torch from Johnson was Doug Holder, well known among local poets for his organizing efforts, small press operation, workshops, special events and general mentoring.


At the library’s 29th annual poetry festival, which featured poets Faye George, Ellie Mamber and Anna Warrock, Johnson, ten years at the helm he prestigious program, officially welcomed Holder, who founded Somerville’s Ibbetson Street Press and was the President of Stone Soup Poetry. In addition, Holder has published the works of many local poets and is a mental health counselor at McLean Hospital in Belmont. He was recently profiled in the Boston Globe regarding Ibbetson’s latest publication, The Life of All Worlds, a poetic essay by Marc Widershein focusing on Jewish Dorchester of the 30’s and 40’s, which has been making a great splash on the book reading circuit and quickly exhausted its first run of 500.


Johnson, who was a Professor of English and poet for 30 years at Suffolk University, began a poetry series at the New Art Center in  Newton and moved the every-second Tuesday program to the library in 1992. Past readers have included  Lloyd Schwartz, Ruth Whitman, Marc Widershien, Fred Marchand, Bill Corbett, Fred Frankel and Ellen Steinbaum. Johnson is retiring to travel and teach.


“I want to continue the tradition Johnson worked so hard to establish,” says Holder, “which is bringing poets from Newton and the surrounding area to the library.


“I guess what I like about poetry groups,” he continues, “is partly selfish. I learn a lot from brainstorming with other poets. It's sort of networking, not only with people but with ideas. It's amazing - at the workshop I teach at Newton Community Education, a very accomplished Ph.D. level writer and former academic in his 50's told me I had changed his life. I brought him back to poetry in middle age.”


Holder grew up in Jewish Long Island and attended its Central Synagogue in Rockville Centre. He holds an M.A. from Harvard Extension School and has led poetry workshops at McLean.


He sees great merit both in eliciting this reawakening in attendees and in fostering a great sense of community. “Stuff like this happens more often than you think. It’s not because I am an amazing teacher or poet, but rather, people recall something from their youth that gave them great pleasure, or they discover

this creative need and sometimes acumen where they thought there was none. Further, it is hard to work in total isolation. Bringing writers together meets a need. We are, after all, social animals - we need to bond, to be acknowledged.”


“Because of my involvement in the Cambridge and Boston scene, I have a supply of very interesting poets to choose from. I plan to bring in a wide selection, including Jewish poets Deb Priestly, Marc Goldfinger, Len Krisak, Jonathan Roses…. 


Johnson, a Needham resident, has published five collections of original poetry including his most recent, Sudden Turnings. He has had more than 150 poems published individually in journals and anthologies and has also has written books about Neil Simon and Frances Ford Coppola. He met Holder through Ibbetson Street Press as a contributor and a collaborator on Ibbetson’s City of Poets/18 Boston Voices.


Holder will begin in Fall of 2002. “I want to maintain the regular base of folks who attend,” he says, “and also attract a younger crowd. The library is very supportive of the poetry program, and the physical venue is excellent. So I think this is a rare opportunity to grow and to make a mark.”


The Newton Free Library is a big, beautiful, airy state-of-the-art building which 10 -  12,000 people visit weekly,” says Director of Public Affairs Beth Purcell.


She lauds its full spectrum of community arts offerings. “We have a first-rate classical music concert series,” she says, “an author series, two monthly art exhibits in the gallery and main hall, children's events, writing and literary discussion groups, etc.”


For information, please visit www.ci.newton.ma.us/library




From: Douglas Holder <dianner@iopener.net

Subject: Newton Free Library

Date Sent: 08 Apr 2002 10:18 AM


April9- this Tues.  The Newton Free Library  Homer St.  in Newton   is going to have their annual

poetry festival   with  poets   Faye George   Ellie Mamber  Anna Warrock

Also the founder of the Newton Free Library Poetry Reading Series, Robert K. Johnson will be

passing the torch to Doug Holder, founder of the scrappy IBBETSON STREET PRESS of Somerville, Ma..

After 10 years at the helm, Johnson will put this prominent reading series in the hands of Holder, who

has published the works of many a local poet and is former president of the STONE SOUP POETS, INC. 

of Boston.


Doug Holder  http://homepage.mac.com/rconte   617-628-2313


--- Douglas Holder <dianner@iopener.netwrote:

Yeah I talked to her...she going to send you information in a day or so Hi Susie -

We just had our 29th Annual Poetry Festival (April 9).  Although the festival has been running for 29 years, the monthly readings (3 in the fall, 3 in the spring) have been running since the opening of the big, beautiful library building in the fall of 1991.


The history of it is this:

Robert Johnson started a poetry series at the New Art Center in  Newton,  and  3 - 4 years later (he said) he brought it over to the  new library when it opened. Bob taught literature and writing at Suffolk University as English  Professor there for more than 30 years and recently retired.  He  published 5 collections of original poetry and has had more than  150 poems published individually in journals and anthologies.  He  lives in Needham and his phone number is 781-449-3573 - I don't  think he has e-mail.


He's done a wonderful job, building the reputation and stature of the  series, bringing in such names as:  Rosanna Warren, Ruth  Whitman, Fred Marchant, Lloyd Schwartz (won a Pulitzer for  criticism - maybe music criticism), Wendy Mnookin and Barbara  Hyett.  He's built a strong audience, too. We are very much looking forward to having Doug lead the series  starting in the fall.  From his work as (editor/publisher?) at Ibbetson  Street Press, he knows many talented poets he can draw on for  readings.


By the way:  please note our name is the Newton Free Library (not  Newton Public Library).  If you want to mention anything about us:   the NFL is a big, beautiful, airy state-of-the-art building which 10 -  12,000 people visit weekly.  We have a first-rate classical music  concert series, author series, 2 monthly art exhibits in the gallery  and main hall, children's events, writing and literary discussion  groups, etc. Our website is www.ci.newton.ma.us/library - then go to lectures &  events - and scroll down till you see something about the poetry  reading on April 9.



The Newton Free Library will host a special seminar for aspiring writers on Tuesday, April 16, 7:00PM. "Put it in Writing @ your Library" is a national program sponsored by Woman’s Day magazine and the American Library Association. Locally, it will feature a talk by free-lance writer Alice Kelly on writing and getting published as well as a presentation by reference librarian Ginny Audet on writers’ resources available at the library. Kelly will speak about her background, about the magazine and book industries, how to get published and how to write an essay. A question-and-answer period will follow and a list of writing/publishing tips will be available. There is no pre-registration; come early for good seating.


Kelly is a local writer who specializes in women's health, mind/body medicine, family issues, stress, nutrition and travel. She has written for Woman's Day, The New York Times, Reader's Digest, Health Magazine, Shape, Glamour, Self, Fitness, Parents, Parenting and other publications. She is co-author of the book Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar's Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and the forthcoming Coping With Infertility.


The Newton Free Library was chosen as one of eight libraries nationwide to host the writing/publishing program during National Library Week, April 14 - 20. Lasell College in Newton will partner with the Library to promote the program to its students.


"Put it in Writing" also includes a nationwide writing contest, the winners of which will have their work published in Woman’s Day next year. For contest rules and guidelines, go to www.ala.org/@yourlibrary/putitinwriting.


To view the booklist of Writers' Resources created by reference librarian Ginny Audet, please click here.


Friends Book & Author Luncheon


This year’s Book & Author Luncheon, sponsored by the Friends of the Newton Free Library will feature Sue Miller, author of seven books including The Good Mother, speaking on her new novel The World Below and Marc Gopin, author of Between Eden and Armageddon and Holy War, Holy Peace speaking on the intersection of religion, violence and strategies for peace. The 18th annual luncheon will be held on Monday, May 6, at noon at the Newton Marriott. Details are listed below.



Library groups meet at the Newton Free Library, 330 Homer Street, Newton Centre, 

unless otherwise noted. 


All meetings are free and open to the public.

April,  2 0 0 2


African Literatures Group

Led by Anne Serafin, this group explores the rich variety of writings from Africa. The group usually meets on the third Wednesday of the month at 7:30PM, this month in Meeting Room B. Meeting Date: April 24: David’s Story, a novel by South African writer Zoe Wicomb. For further information, call 552-7145.


Children's Book Writers Group

Meetings are held on the first Monday or the fourth Wednesday of the month at 7:00PM, in Meeting Room A. This group is for writers who have work in progress. Pre-registration required. Please call Ruth Glass at 332-0835 or Karen Day at 244-4830 for more information. Meeting Dates: Monday, April 1 or Wednesday, April 24.


Cinema Discussion Group

This new group engages in discussion and critique of significant films. Led by Paulette Idelson, the group meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00PM in Meeting Room A. Meeting Date: April 16: "Gone with the Wind." Attendees are encouraged to view the film before the meeting if not familiar with it.


Current Fiction Discussion Group

Meetings are held the first Wednesday of the month, 7:30PM in Meeting Room A. Participants should read works in advance. Group coordinator: Alice Simons. For information, call the Library at 552-7159. Meeting Dates: April 3: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; May 1: My Dream of You by Nuala O’Faolain.


Great Books Discussion Group

Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month at 7:15PM in Meeting Room A. Members read books from the Great Books Foundation (available at the Library). Meeting Date: April 9: "Verses 1, 2 and 3" by Sapho of Lesbos and "Requiem" by Akhmatova. For further information, call the Library at 552-7145.


Landscape of Aging

This group is on hiatus until the fall.



Newton Camera Club

Meetings are held at 7:30PM on the second and fourth Mondays of the month at the Nonantum Branch Library. Group coordinator: Elisif Brandon: (617) 243-0557. Meeting Dates: April 8: Architecture and Open slide competition; April 22: Presentation by John Fuller on "North by South: Arctic and Antarctic." Month of April: Annual Print Exhibit in the Main Hall of the Library with reception on Thursday, April 4, 7:30PM.



Meetings are held at Newton Corner on the first Tuesday of the month at 7:00PM. Preparation is not necessary. Meeting Date: April 2. For further information, please call the Library at 552-7145 or the branch at 552-7157.


Sequences: Women Tell Our Stories

In this women's workshop, participants read, discuss and write about literature by women. The group meets the second Wednesday of each month from 10 - 11:30AM in Meeting Room A. Leader: Robin Mayer Stein. Meeting Date: April 10. For further information, call 552-7145.


Short Fiction Writing Group

This workshop provides an atmosphere of expert support to polish short fiction. It is geared for published writers as well as those who are actively pursuing publication. Preregistration is required: 617-965-8835. The group meets the first Tuesday of each month, in Meeting Room A, 7:00PM. Meeting Date: April 2. Please bring 5 copies of work to the meeting. Coordinator is Halcyon Mancuso.


Short Story Discussion Group

Meetings are held on the second Monday of the month at 7:30PM in Meeting Room A. Group leader is Mary Lanigan. For further information, call 552-7145. Meeting Date: April 8: William Trevor, "A Happy Family" and Alice Munro "Family Furnishings."