On Writing and Poetry: Harry Calhoun in Dialog

“That is simply sensible. The entire interview is unbelievable… I am… REALLY appreciative of some severely good recommendation from a fellow author.” Mark Howell, Senior Author, Solares Hill

Harry Calhoun’s image may seem beside the dictionary definition for “journeyman.” Dwelling proof that not all writers must be well-known or stick to 1 sort of writing to achieve success, Calhoun has discovered frequent editorial favor as a poet since 1980 and was a extensively printed freelance article and literary Essay author within the 80s and 90s. As well as, he has edited a poetry journal and a commerce journal for the housing business and positioned poetry and fiction items in magazines reminiscent of Thunder Sandwich and The Islander. He has been an award-winning advertising and marketing author for multinational corporations reminiscent of GE and IBM for the previous twenty years.

Trina Allen is a contract author and editor who has learn and loved a lot of Calhoun’s work.

Trina Allen: Your poetry has gotten you essentially the most recognition in publications. To what do you attribute your success?

Harry Calhoun: Completely little question, three phrases — three phrases, quick consideration span! That is why I like my job now. Advertising writing is so much like poetry. It is ceaselessly very quick. It is attempting to specific one thing within the fewest quantities of phrases and say it with the form of spin that sticks with the one that’s studying it. It definitely is not poetry, but it surely’s the identical mentality, simply attempting to say issues actually shortly and crisply. Folks suppose that poetry is flowery language or one thing that goes on and on, however often it is fairly the alternative, it is succinct and fast… attempting to nail it in as few phrases as doable.

Allen: Is there anyone poem that you simply take into account your most profitable piece?

Calhoun: Yeah, there is a poem — mockingly, a really quick one — known as “Leaving.” I all the time take a look at that as successful as a result of I really feel prefer it captured the sensation and the second concisely and with compact verbiage.

Allen: I perceive {that a} reviewer as soon as stunned you together with his take in your poem, “The Day after Christmas.” Are you able to inform me about that?

Calhoun: Oh yea. It was a extremely humorous second. I had the poem printed in just a little journal, Taurus, the place I used to be printed fairly ceaselessly once I was beginning out. The poem was known as “The Day after Christmas,” and I wrote it to check the sensation of let down you get after Christmas to the lack of a love relationship — we had one thing nice, like Christmas, and now you are gone and it is all mundane once more. The reviewer mentioned that he preferred the poem, which was cool, however he mentioned it was a scathing indictment of the commercialism of the Christmas season. He apparently did not get the concept I used to be attempting to tie it right into a love relationship in any respect. And it stunned me, but it surely additionally confirmed me that poems and fiction are open to interpretation. Simply because I wrote it does not imply that he cannot interpret it the way in which he desires to. His interpretation is as legitimate as mine.

Allen: You might have over 500 publications in magazines together with Author’s Digest, Non-public Golf equipment, Gargoyle, Mississippi Arts & Letters, and The Nationwide Enquirer and you’ve got gained awards to your promotional supplies together with an Addy award for greatest junk mail. What are your emotions about your success?

Calhoun: It is form of like taking a look at your resume and saying, “Gee, did I do all that stuff.” You notice that someplace alongside the road you probably did it, but it surely virtually does not appear actual. I really feel some regret for not having achieved extra, significantly in fiction and poetry, however I additionally really feel that it has been a very good, full profession and I am mainly at peace with it.

Allen: Would you broaden in your biggest success?

Calhoun: Yeah, truly I’ve bounced round sufficient that I’ve had some successes in several areas. I can not actually level at anyone nice success. Issues that come instantly to thoughts have been in my most fertile poetic interval, which was again within the late 80s once I had a number of chapbooks of my poetry printed by small presses. That was actually fulfilling for me. I used to be additionally having quite a lot of my poems printed in magazines round that point and even after that — and I hosted a poetry studying and music sequence with my pal Mark Howell in Key West. That was a extremely nice time in my life… however so is correct now, being a advertising and marketing author, which is clearly completely out of the publication realm. I am nonetheless discovering quite a lot of happiness doing that as a result of its good being at this stage in my profession the place I really feel like I am pretty good at what I do.

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Allen: What recommendation would you give novice writers relating to a profession in writing?

Calhoun: The primary prerequisite is to have expertise. You haven’t any management over that. However past that, there are a number of issues inside your management. Here is my high 5 listing for writers, in reverse order David Letterman type:


5. Learn voraciously, particularly within the genres you are most eager about. One factor that amazed me as a poetry editor is that individuals who did not learn poetry would ship me poems. It is like attempting to stroll earlier than your legs develop. Studying provides types to repeat, types that may assist kind your personal private type.

4. Do not forget that it is all writing. Whether or not you are writing a novel or an e-mail or a poem, it is all writing and all of it helps. Plus, should you’re like me and quite a lot of writers I’ve identified, the very act of writing feels good — it doesn’t matter what form of writing it’s. Scripting this response to your interview query feels good, for instance!

3. Work, work, work. Do not let something get in the way in which of your writing. Make it your job, even should you’re already working one other job to help your self.

2. Have targets — however do not be afraid to vary them. Not everybody’s profession is like mine, and a few individuals begin out wanting to write down fiction and find yourself doing simply that. However should you discover different genres that you simply’re good at, do not be afraid to vary your targets. The corollary to that is: Do not have preconceived notions about the place your writing will take you. I began out attempting to write down fiction, took a detour into poetry after which journal modifying and ended up as a advertising and marketing author. My aim was all the time to be a profitable author — however the kind that success took modified a number of instances throughout my profession.

1. And my primary rule for writers: Need it greater than you need anything on the earth. Ardour is every part. I would advocate Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Artwork of Writing for recommendation about writing for love moderately than cash. I actually suppose that any success I’ve had is as a result of I wished to earn the title of author — wished to do it for a dwelling — greater than something. I wished it extra passionately than anybody else I knew.

You may discover that I left off two of the same old ideas for writers: Maintaining a journal and setting a every day time or web page restrict to your writing. That is as a result of neither one was significantly efficient for me. I feel that if I had caught with fiction I might discover a journal extra helpful, however as a nonfiction author and poet it simply acquired in the way in which of my “actual” writing … it was extra environment friendly to get my job achieved than to hassle with a journal.

As for setting a aim to write down for an hour a day or one web page a day, I discover that having an project is extra of a motivator than an artificially set restrict. Have no freelance assignments? Make them up! In my poetry heyday, I might usually set myself the duty of finishing x variety of poems in order that I might be capable to submit them to a given journal. No every day time restrict, simply the “project” to have the submission prepared in every week or two weeks.

Allen: Would you wish to share any extra ideas on the subject of writing?

Calhoun: Writing is writing… (It is) a tactical factor… that takes ardour. Some fortunate individuals begin out writing fiction and might do it– for them the linear path is greatest. Personally my profession has been natural, which is an effective approach of claiming I have been everywhere. I definitely did not begin out considering I would be writing advertising and marketing copy and no person may have instructed me I would get pleasure from it as a lot as I do. I acquired my first advertising and marketing place as a result of I would written quite a lot of freelance articles and parlayed that into advertising and marketing. I wished to search out work in a extra metropolitan space and the proprietor of a small advert company in Pittsburgh was very impressed with a few of my freelance writing and employed me as a advertising and marketing author. I have been doing it ever sense.

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I’ve needed to change gears so much. I’ve needed to say, what are my targets now? Do I wish to make some cash? How can I make some cash? Do I wish to get printed? How can I try this? As a lot of an emotional factor as writing is, it is also a tactical factor. I discovered alternatives to parlay one sort of writing into one other or into the subsequent step in my profession.

I can not subscribe to the concept you are a sellout should you do not write fiction or poetry… Writing is simply writing. When you’re completed at it and also you’re adequate to receives a commission for it then there’s a specific amount of satisfaction to that, even when it is a nine-to-five job like my advertising and marketing writing. It is much less bohemian than I although I would ever be, having lived for a very long time in a traditional third-floor “author’s garret” attic residence. However no matter I do, if I haven’t got ardour about it then I do not suppose I would wish to do it.

Allen: A few of your actions have included poetry readings, guide evaluations, articles in newspapers and magazines, and poetry, fiction, advertising and marketing writing. Which gave you essentially the most satisfaction? The least?

Calhoun: I can take a look at myself as a journeyman or say I’ve had an extremely different life, nevertheless you wish to take a look at it. I’ve gotten satisfaction out of the totally different phases of my writing. I am thought of top-of-the-line writers for the most important expertise firm the place I work now. I get quite a lot of thrills of seeing my work on the Web for audiences around the globe. That is thrilling and I actually get pleasure from that. I loved seeing my poetry printed and liked doing the poetry readings, together with dabbling in efficiency poetry. That was quite a lot of enjoyable.

There’ve been quite a lot of excessive factors. I nonetheless keep in mind getting my first article printed and that after all was an enormous thrill. It was again within the days while you nonetheless wrote on a typewriter and minimize and pasted your stuff till you have been proud of it after which typed it up on good paper to get it printed. Fond recollections.

Allen: It seems like seeing your writing in print was one of the crucial thrilling issues for you as a author.

Calhoun: Positively, these first publications have been simply nice. The very first thing I had printed was a poem, adopted by guide evaluations and my first article. It was good to see my title on the market.

Allen: What gave you the least satisfaction, or was essentially the most irritating early in your writing profession?

Calhoun: I am glad I made the choice to go away from fiction. I began out within the mid 70s writing it. I learn tons of fiction, after all, however fiction was exhausting for me and continues to be troublesome for me to today. I suppose my greatest remorse is that I by no means had a significant fiction work printed. I had a number of quick tales printed, but it surely’s not my robust level. That is the factor I remorse most and like least about my profession. I’ve to offer myself credit score for making the choice to let go of this and do different issues.

Allen: Was there a author or poet that you simply admired and hoped to emulate in your early writing profession?

Calhoun: Truly, there have been a number of. If you requested the query I instantly considered three or 4 writers: Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet, and W. S. Merwin, an American poet who I actually admired. I undoubtedly was influenced in my poetry by each. I additionally thought of Ernest Hemingway as a result of I actually just like the conciseness and crispness of his writing — I undoubtedly tried to emulate him for some time.

After which I lastly realized there was one author that influenced my type greater than another: Harlan Ellison, greatest often known as a science fiction and fantasy author. Apart from writing entertaining tales, he would do these actually attention-grabbing introductions to his tales, they usually have been all the time written so conversationally– this actually drew you into them. A whole lot of instances at this time, at the same time as a advertising and marketing author, individuals say that my type is breezy and conversational, and I feel I owe quite a lot of that type to Harlan Ellison as a result of I used to be intentionally attempting to repeat his type. I preferred the way in which it sounded and what he was doing.

And Charles Bukowski, the German poet and fiction author who adopted LA as his residence, undoubtedly influenced me. I began out studying him within the 70s and shortly grew to become a fan of his gritty, no-nonsense type, his humor and his accessibility. Within the 80s, I acquired his contact data from a fellow fan and started a correspondence with him that lasted from 1983 till simply earlier than his demise in 1994. I printed his work in Pig in a Poke, just a little poetry journal that I edited for a lot of the 80s and even put out a small pamphlet of his work. He was an inspiration as a result of he was a well known author who nonetheless saved in contact together with his small-press roots.

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Allen: You began a critically acclaimed journal within the 80s known as Pig in a Poke, which you printed from 1982 to 1989. What gave you the thought for the journal and why did you cease manufacturing?

Calhoun: It is attention-grabbing. I nonetheless see on-line references often to Pig in a Poke and different magazines from round that point. A few of them, like Thunder Sandwich and Black Bear Assessment, are nonetheless going proper now. What gave me the thought for it? At the moment I had solely been printed as a poet for a pair years. I used to be working as a guide reviewer, and once I say working I imply I used to be being paid in copies of the books I reviewed. I wasn’t making any cash. I used to be working one other job and looking for my success as a author.

There have been quite a lot of small-press poetry magazines at the moment. I actually preferred the way in which their editors did enterprise. They have been often actually quick in replying. They gave recommendation. They have been extra conversational of their letters. It was a sort method and I actually preferred it as a result of as each author is aware of these rejection slips might be impersonal and fairly powerful to deal with. I assumed I might be good at modifying {a magazine} and I additionally thought it could expose me to much more poetry, which it did, most of it actually unhealthy poetry. Positively I acquired to know quite a lot of poets within the scene.

I printed Pig in a Poke out of my very own pocket for quite a few years, which is why mainly I finished manufacturing as a result of it acquired to be an excessive amount of of a drain on my funds. But additionally its time had handed with me. I began to work in advertising and marketing and get real-world jobs. I did not have as a lot time for it as I had had earlier than. It makes me suppose that probably I may revive it on the Web as a result of that is extra of an instantaneous medium that printing it myself on paper.

Over the course of the years from 1982 to 88, I held a sequence of Pig in a Poke poetry readings at Hemingway’s in Pittsburgh yearly. They have been profitable and quite a lot of enjoyable.

Allen: Do you imagine such magazines and chapbooks are a great way to get work printed at this time?

Calhoun: In case your aim is to become profitable, they seem to be a horrible thought. However my aim was by no means to become profitable. It was to get my poetry publicity, to get individuals to learn my stuff and reply to it and inform me the best way to enhance and to connect with it in some emotional approach. In that sense, the little magazines are good as a result of it’s a bit simpler to get printed in them than the mainstream magazines. A few of them are of surprisingly top quality, although. Often what you get from them is editors which can be fast to reply and reply with much more empathy– they really will provide you with recommendation or let you know what they like or don’t love about your poetry. And that is actually helpful, particularly for a younger author or somebody who hasn’t achieved it for that lengthy. Plus, as a result of they’re quick to reply and low cost to provide there was the joys of attending to see your work pretty shortly. It isn’t fairly as instant because the Web is at this time, however you could possibly get a poem accepted and inside a number of months you could possibly see it in print. And you bought to share your ideas with others. It was enjoyable.

Excerpt from the interview in Thunder Sandwich #25, January 1, 2005.

To learn the interview in its entirety go to http://www.thundersandwich.com/ts25/index.html.


By Harry Calhoun

It is like a door closing.

I would like it to be mild, noiseless,

Japanese. Reopen it and apologize

to the wooden if it slams.

However humidity swells this

past what it must be

and the squeak and push

to shut it sounds

as if I encourage

to be let again in.

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