The English Department is thrilled to host Harmony Holiday as the visiting Holloway Lecturer in the Practice of Poetry for the 2022-23 academic year. As Holloway Lecturer, Holiday is teaching a semester-long creative writing workshop this fall and will be offering a featured reading in the Holloway Series.
A dancer, curator, archivist, and experimental filmmaker as well as a poet, Holiday is the author most recently of the epic Maafa (Fence Books, 2022) and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom (Birds, LLC, 2019), which won a 2020 California Book Award. Her other collections include Negro League Baseball (2011, winner of the Fence Books Motherwell Prize), Go Find your Father/A Famous Blues (Ricochet Editions, 2013), and Hollywood Forever (Fence Books, 2017). She was the recipient in 2013 of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Award, as well as a NYFA fellowship and a Schomburg Fellowship. She has recently published pieces on Kendrick Lamar and James Baldwin, and her “one-man play-turned-film” God’s Suicide was included last year in the Hammer Museum’s acclaimed biennial Made in L.A. She also writes regularly about subjects close to her — the expansive worlds of artists such as J Dilla, D’Angelo, Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and many others — on her own Substack, “Black Music and Black Muses”. Holiday received a BA in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley.
The course description for Holiday’s upcoming workshop (Fall ‘22) begins: “Musician and poet Sun Ra once noted, after writing a requiem for a former band member, this is the first time a black man received his very own requiem.” Sun Ra was also the subject of a recent piece by Holiday for the Los Angeles Times, and his albums will be required listening in her course. As it happens, Sun Ra himself taught at Berkeley in 1971 in the Department of African American Studies; you can find the reading list for his course, along with a recording of one of his lectures, online at Open Culture.
The Holloway Lectureship in the Practice of Poetry is awarded to one distinguished poet each year and entails a residency at the University of California, Berkeley. Each academic year, the series welcomes several renowned and rising contemporary poets to campus to share and celebrate their work in readings that are free and open to the public. It is funded by the English Department through an Endowment made by Roberta C. Holloway in 1981.
Holiday’s reading at UC Berkeley’s Lunch Poems series in 2015 can be found here.
(author photo from Birds LLC website)