The Slam Poet Goes to Israel


“In the beginning was the word,” says Bob Holman, a slam poet and founder of the Bowery Poetry Club–one of New York‘s premiere poetry venues. “God said it. But who was He speaking to? Christians? Muslims? Jews?”

Holman poses this question on his new television series, On the Road. The show tours the world, recording different peoples and their poetry. In the show’s third episode, Holman tours Israel, hunting out its history through language. He explores how the creation of a new language–modern Hebrew–played an essential role in Israel’s founding, and he uses those explorations as a way to connect to Hebrew-speaking Israelis. In addition, a Yiddish storyteller teaches Holman about the development of the Yiddish language, while making cholent. And Holman learns Ladino songs from a Judeo-Spanish poet and an Iraqi Jewish refugee poet.

While Holman’s own poetry doesn’t figure into the series, he still manages to inject the series with his own personality and humor–in the Israel episode he plays soccer with kids near the Jerusalem market, and sneaks bites of cholent between questions.

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