On Writing and Poetry: Harry Calhoun in Dialog

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

Harry Calhoun’s image might seem beside the dictionary definition for “journeyman.” Residing proof that not all writers should be well-known or stick to at least one sort of writing to achieve success, Calhoun has discovered frequent editorial favor as a poet since 1980 and was a broadly revealed 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 trade and positioned poetry and fiction items in magazines comparable to Thunder Sandwich and The Islander. He has been an award-winning advertising author for multinational firms comparable to GE and IBM for the previous twenty years.

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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 probably the most recognition in publications. To what do you attribute your success?

Harry Calhoun: Completely little doubt, three phrases — three phrases, brief consideration span! That is why I like my job now. Advertising writing is quite a bit like poetry. It is regularly very brief. It is attempting to precise one thing within the fewest quantities of phrases and say it with the type of spin that sticks with the one who’s studying it. It definitely is not poetry, nevertheless it’s the identical mentality, simply attempting to say issues actually shortly and crisply. Individuals suppose that poetry is flowery language or one thing that goes on and on, however normally it is fairly the other, it is succinct and fast… attempting to nail it in as few phrases as attainable.

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

Calhoun: Yeah, there is a poem — mockingly, a really brief one — known as “Leaving.” I at all times have 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 along with his take in your poem, “The Day after Christmas.” Are you able to inform me about that?

Calhoun: Oh yea. It was a very humorous second. I had the poem revealed in somewhat journal, Taurus, the place I used to be revealed fairly regularly once I was beginning out. The poem was known as “The Day after Christmas,” and I wrote it to match 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 favored 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, nevertheless it 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 best way he desires to. His interpretation is as legitimate as mine.

Allen: You may have over 500 publications in magazines together with Author’s Digest, Personal Golf equipment, Gargoyle, Mississippi Arts & Letters, and The Nationwide Enquirer and you’ve got received awards in your promotional supplies together with an Addy award for finest unsolicited mail. What are your emotions about your success?

Calhoun: It is type 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, nevertheless it virtually would not appear actual. I really feel some regret for not having finished extra, notably in fiction and poetry, however I additionally really feel that it has been , full profession and I am principally at peace with it.

Allen: Would you develop in your best success?

Calhoun: Yeah, really I’ve bounced round sufficient that I’ve had some successes in several areas. I can not actually level at anybody 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 couple of chapbooks of my poetry revealed by small presses. That was actually fulfilling for me. I used to be additionally having numerous my poems revealed in magazines round that point and even after that — and I hosted a poetry studying and music collection with my pal Mark Howell in Key West. That was a very nice time in my life… however so is correct now, being a advertising author, which is clearly completely out of the publication realm. I am nonetheless discovering numerous 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.

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

Calhoun: The primary prerequisite is to have expertise. You don’t have any management over that. However past that, there are a number of issues inside your management. This is my prime 5 checklist for writers, in reverse order David Letterman model:


5. Learn voraciously, particularly within the genres you are most taken with. 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 offers types to repeat, types that can assist kind your individual private model.

4. Keep in mind 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, in the event you’re like me and numerous writers I’ve recognized, the very act of writing feels good — it doesn’t matter what type 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 best way of your writing. Make it your job, even in the event you’re already working one other job to assist your self.

2. Have objectives — however do not be afraid to alter them. Not everybody’s profession is like mine, and a few individuals begin out wanting to put in writing fiction and find yourself doing simply that. However in the event you discover different genres that you simply’re good at, do not be afraid to alter your objectives. The corollary to that is: Do not have preconceived notions about the place your writing will take you. I began out attempting to put in writing fiction, took a detour into poetry after which journal modifying and ended up as a advertising author. My aim was at all times 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 the rest 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 slightly than cash. I truthfully 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 residing — greater than something. I wished it extra passionately than anybody else I knew.

You will discover that I left off two of the same old suggestions for writers: Conserving a journal and setting a day by day time or web page restrict in your writing. That is as a result of neither one was notably efficient for me. I believe that if I had caught with fiction I might discover a journal extra helpful, however as a nonfiction author and poet it simply bought in the best way of my “actual” writing … it was extra environment friendly to get my job finished than to hassle with a journal.

As for setting a aim to put in writing 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 of submit them to a given journal. No day by day time restrict, simply the “project” to have the submission prepared in every week or two weeks.

Allen: Would you prefer 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 finest. Personally my profession has been natural, which is an efficient means of claiming I have been everywhere. I definitely did not begin out pondering I would be writing advertising copy and no person might have advised me I would get pleasure from it as a lot as I do. I bought my first advertising place as a result of I would written numerous freelance articles and parlayed that into advertising. I wished to seek 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 author. I have been doing it ever sense.

I’ve needed to change gears quite a bit. I’ve needed to say, what are my objectives now? Do I need to make some cash? How can I make some cash? Do I need to get revealed? How can I do 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 following step in my profession.

I can not subscribe to the concept you are a sellout in the event you do not write fiction or poetry… Writing is simply writing. If you happen to’re completed at it and also you’re ok 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 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 need to do it.

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

Calhoun: I can have a look at myself as a journeyman or say I’ve had an extremely various life, nevertheless you need to have a look at it. I’ve gotten satisfaction out of the completely different phases of my writing. I am thought of among the best writers for the key know-how firm the place I work now. I get numerous thrills of seeing my work on the Web for audiences world wide. That is thrilling and I actually get pleasure from that. I loved seeing my poetry revealed and liked doing the poetry readings, together with dabbling in efficiency poetry. That was numerous enjoyable.

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

Allen: It appears like seeing your writing in print was probably the most thrilling issues for you as a author.

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

Allen: What gave you the least satisfaction, or was probably 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 tough for me to at the present time. I suppose my largest remorse is that I by no means had a significant fiction work revealed. I had a couple of brief tales revealed, nevertheless it’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: Really, 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 model greater than every other: Harlan Ellison, finest often known as a science fiction and fantasy author. Moreover writing entertaining tales, he would do these actually attention-grabbing introductions to his tales, and so they have been at all times written so conversationally– this actually drew you into them. Numerous instances right now, whilst a advertising author, individuals say that my model is breezy and conversational, and I believe I owe numerous that model to Harlan Ellison as a result of I used to be intentionally attempting to repeat his model. I favored the best way it sounded and what he was doing.

And Charles Bukowski, the German poet and fiction author who adopted LA as his dwelling, undoubtedly influenced me. I began out studying him within the 70s and shortly turned a fan of his gritty, no-nonsense model, his humor and his accessibility. Within the 80s, I bought his contact info from a fellow fan and commenced a correspondence with him that lasted from 1983 till simply earlier than his dying in 1994. I revealed his work in Pig in a Poke, somewhat 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 along with his small-press roots.

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

Calhoun: It is attention-grabbing. I nonetheless see on-line references sometimes 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 concept for it? At the moment I had solely been revealed 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 numerous small-press poetry magazines at the moment. I actually favored the best way their editors did enterprise. They have been normally actually quick in replying. They gave recommendation. They have been extra conversational of their letters. It was a sort method and I actually favored it as a result of as each author is aware of these rejection slips may be impersonal and fairly powerful to deal with. I believed I might be good at modifying {a magazine} and I additionally thought it might expose me to much more poetry, which it did, most of it actually unhealthy poetry. Undoubtedly I bought to know numerous poets within the scene.

I revealed Pig in a Poke out of my very own pocket for a lot of years, which is why principally I ended manufacturing as a result of it bought 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 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 might revive it on the Web as a result of that is extra of a right away medium that printing it myself on paper.

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

Allen: Do you consider such magazines and chapbooks are a great way to get work revealed right now?

Calhoun: In case your aim is to earn cash, they are a horrible concept. However my aim was in no way to earn cash. It was to get my poetry publicity, to get individuals to learn my stuff and reply to it and inform me how one can enhance and to hook up with it in some emotional means. In that sense, the little magazines are good as a result of it’s a bit simpler to get revealed in them than the mainstream magazines. A few of them are of surprisingly prime quality, although. Normally what you get from them is editors which are fast to reply and reply with much more empathy– they really offers you 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 finished 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’s not fairly as rapid because the Web is right now, however you might get a poem accepted and inside a couple of months you might 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 light, noiseless,

Japanese. Reopen it and apologize

to the wooden if it slams.

However humidity swells this

past what it ought to be

and the squeak and push

to shut it sounds

as if I urge

to be let again in.

Source by Trina Allen

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