July 16, 2024


Art Can't Be Beat

On Composing and Poetry: Harry Calhoun in Conversation

14 min read
On Composing and Poetry: Harry Calhoun in Conversation

“This is just outstanding. The complete interview is incredible… I am… Genuinely appreciative of some severely superior guidance from a fellow author.” Mark Howell, Senior Author, Solares Hill

Harry Calhoun’s image could surface beside the dictionary definition for “journeyman.” Residing proof that not all writers have to be well known or stick to 1 form of creating to be effective, Calhoun has located repeated editorial favor as a poet considering that 1980 and was a commonly published freelance post and literary essay author in the 80s and 90s. In addition, he has edited a poetry journal and a trade journal for the housing business and placed poetry and fiction pieces in journals these types of as Thunder Sandwich and The Islander. He has been an award-successful advertising and marketing author for multinational organizations this sort of as GE and IBM for the past 20 decades.

Trina Allen is a freelance author and editor who has go through and liked significantly of Calhoun’s function.

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

Harry Calhoun: Unquestionably no doubt, three phrases — a few text, short awareness span! That’s why I like my occupation now. Advertising and marketing writing is a good deal like poetry. It is really commonly extremely short. It truly is attempting to specific one thing in the fewest quantities of text and say it with the kind of spin that sticks with the human being who’s studying it. It absolutely is just not poetry, but it truly is the exact same mentality, just striving to say items actually speedily and crisply. Men and women assume that poetry is flowery language or a little something that goes on and on, but ordinarily it’s fairly the opposite, it is succinct and swift… seeking to nail it in as couple of phrases as probable.

Allen: Is there any just one poem that you take into account your most successful piece?

Calhoun: Yeah, there is certainly a poem — ironically, a very short one — referred to as “Leaving.” I normally search at that as a accomplishment mainly because I feel like it captured the emotion and the second concisely and with compact verbiage.

Allen: I comprehend that a reviewer when surprised you with his choose on your poem, “The Working day following Xmas.” Can you convey to me about that?

Calhoun: Oh yea. It was a definitely humorous instant. I experienced the poem published in a very little journal, Taurus, in which I was released really regularly when I was starting up out. The poem was called “The Day just after Xmas,” and I wrote it to evaluate the feeling of enable down you get right after Christmas to the reduction of a adore connection — we had some thing wonderful, like Christmas, and now you are absent and it truly is all mundane all over again. The reviewer explained that he appreciated the poem, which was interesting, but he mentioned it was a scathing indictment of the commercialism of the Christmas season. He seemingly didn’t get the plan that I was making an attempt to tie it into a adore marriage at all. And it surprised me, but it also showed me that poems and fiction are open to interpretation. Just mainly because I wrote it won’t indicate that he won’t be able to interpret it the way he desires to. His interpretation is as valid as mine.

Allen: You have over 500 publications in publications which include Writer’s Digest, Private Golf equipment, Gargoyle, Mississippi Arts & Letters, and The Countrywide Enquirer and you have won awards for your marketing supplies together with an Addy award for greatest direct mail. What are your thoughts about your achievements?

Calhoun: It can be kind of like hunting at your resume and declaring, “Gee, did I do all that things.” You know that somewhere together the line you did it, but it practically will not look serious. I sense some regret for not obtaining accomplished additional, particularly in fiction and poetry, but I also experience that it is been a good, full occupation and I’m mainly at peace with it.

Allen: Would you develop on your best achievement?

Calhoun: Yeah, in fact I’ve bounced about enough that I’ve had some successes in various locations. I cannot truly point at any 1 great good results. Factors that come instantly to brain ended up in my most fertile poetic period of time, which was back in the late 80s when I had a several chapbooks of my poetry revealed by small presses. That was seriously fulfilling for me. I was also owning a ton of my poems posted in publications all around that time and even just after that — and I hosted a poetry reading through and audio sequence with my good friend Mark Howell in Important West. That was a seriously good time in my life… but so is suitable now, getting a marketing and advertising writer, which is of course entirely out of the publication realm. I’m nonetheless finding a great deal of joy doing that mainly because its awesome staying at this stage in my occupation in which I sense like I’m pretty fantastic at what I do.

Allen: What guidance would you give amateur writers regarding a occupation in writing?

Calhoun: The initially prerequisite is to have expertise. You have no control above that. But further than that, there are a number of points in your command. Here’s my top rated five record for writers, in reverse purchase David Letterman fashion:

CALHOUN’S 5 Simple Policies FOR Producing Success

5. Study voraciously, primarily in the genres you are most fascinated in. 1 issue that amazed me as a poetry editor is that persons who did not read through poetry would deliver me poems. It truly is like attempting to walk prior to your legs acquire. Studying provides types to copy, models that will assistance kind your individual private model.

4. Keep in mind that it is all writing. No matter if you happen to be composing a novel or an e-mail or a poem, it really is all crafting and it all will help. As well as, if you’re like me and a lot of writers I’ve recognized, the extremely act of producing feels excellent — no issue what sort of composing it is. Writing this reaction to your job interview query feels great, for instance!

3. Function, work, work. Do not let nearly anything get in the way of your producing. Make it your position, even if you happen to be currently doing work an additional career to assist your self.

2. Have aims — but never be frightened to change them. Not everyone’s job is like mine, and some individuals commence out wanting to publish fiction and close up executing just that. But if you obtain other genres that you are superior at, don’t be scared to alter your plans. The corollary to this is: Really don’t have preconceived notions about exactly where your writing will take you. I started out out hoping to publish fiction, took a detour into poetry and then magazine enhancing and finished up as a advertising and marketing writer. My purpose was generally to be a productive writer — but the kind that achievements took improved many occasions for the duration of my career.

1. And my range just one rule for writers: Want it additional than you want nearly anything else in the globe. Passion is anything. I would suggest Ray Bradbury’s Zen and the Artwork of Producing for advice about crafting for adore fairly than revenue. I truthfully believe that any accomplishment I have experienced is due to the fact I wanted to receive the title of writer — needed to do it for a dwelling — far more than nearly anything. I wanted it much more passionately than anyone else I understood.

You will discover that I remaining off two of the standard strategies for writers: Retaining a journal and environment a day-to-day time or web site limit for your producing. That’s because neither one particular was specifically productive for me. I imagine that if I experienced stuck with fiction I would uncover a journal a lot more useful, but as a nonfiction writer and poet it just acquired in the way of my “real” creating … it was extra efficient to get my task completed than to hassle with a journal.

As for placing a aim to create for an hour a day or just one page a working day, I obtain that having an assignment is more of a motivator than an artificially set restrict. Do not have any freelance assignments? Make them up! In my poetry heyday, I would normally established myself the undertaking of completing x variety of poems so that I would be ready to post them to a specified journal. No daily time restrict, just the “assignment” to have the submission all set in a 7 days or two months.

Allen: Would you like to share any additional thoughts on the topic of writing?

Calhoun: Composing is creating… (It truly is) a tactical point… that requires enthusiasm. Some lucky individuals start out producing fiction and can do it– for them the linear route is greatest. Individually my vocation has been natural, which is a very good way of indicating I have been all more than the position. I definitely failed to start out out imagining I would be writing advertising duplicate and no person could have advised me I’d delight in it as a lot as I do. I obtained my 1st marketing and advertising position simply because I would published a good deal of freelance articles or blog posts and parlayed that into promoting. I desired to discover work in a extra metropolitan place and the owner of a modest advert agency in Pittsburgh was quite amazed with some of my freelance creating and employed me as a internet marketing writer. I have been carrying out it at any time perception.

I have experienced to transform gears a large amount. I have experienced to say, what are my aims now? Do I want to make some cash? How can I make some money? Do I want to get printed? How can I do that? As substantially of an emotional detail as writing is, it’s also a tactical thing. I located possibilities to parlay one particular kind of writing into another or into the upcoming action in my job.

I are unable to subscribe to the concept that you might be a sellout if you never generate fiction or poetry… Producing is just crafting. If you might be achieved at it and you are good sufficient to get compensated for it then there is a certain quantity of gratification to that, even if it really is a nine-to-5 work like my promoting writing. It really is considerably less bohemian than I while I would at any time be, getting lived for a very long time in a common 3rd-floor “writer’s garret” attic condominium. But whichever I do, if I you should not have enthusiasm about it then I don’t feel I might want to do it.

Allen: Some of your functions have incorporated poetry readings, e book reviews, articles or blog posts in newspapers and publications, and poetry, fiction, promoting crafting. Which gave you the most satisfaction? The the very least?

Calhoun: I can appear at myself as a journeyman or say I have had an incredibly various existence, on the other hand you want to glance at it. I’ve gotten pleasure out of the distinctive phases of my composing. I am deemed a person of the ideal writers for the important technological innovation organization where I operate now. I get a large amount of thrills of seeing my function on the Net for audiences close to the globe. That’s interesting and I truly appreciate that. I liked observing my poetry released and loved doing the poetry readings, like dabbling in efficiency poetry. That was a large amount of enjoyable.

There’ve been a good deal of high points. I however try to remember having my first post published and that of program was a large thrill. It was back again in the times when you still wrote on a typewriter and reduce and pasted your things until eventually you were being pleased with it and then typed it up on superior paper to get it published. Fond reminiscences.

Allen: It seems like observing your creating in print was a single of the most thrilling matters for you as a author.

Calhoun: Certainly, those first publications were being just good. The initial detail I had posted was a poem, adopted by e-book opinions and my 1st article. It was nice to see my name out there.

Allen: What gave you the the very least gratification, or was the most irritating early in your creating vocation?

Calhoun: I am glad I designed the conclusion to go away from fiction. I commenced out in the mid 70s composing it. I go through tons of fiction, of study course, but fiction was hard for me and proceeds to be challenging for me to this working day. I guess my major regret is that I in no way had a major fiction function published. I experienced a couple of short tales printed, but it truly is not my sturdy stage. That’s the detail I regret most and like the very least about my job. I have to give myself credit score for generating the selection to permit go of this and do other factors.

Allen: Was there a author or poet that you admired and hoped to emulate in your early composing occupation?
Calhoun: Really, there were being many. When you questioned the dilemma I immediately thought of a few or four writers: Dylan Thomas, the Welsh poet, and W. S. Merwin, an American poet who I seriously admired. I unquestionably was motivated in my poetry by both of those. I also assumed about Ernest Hemingway for the reason that I definitely like the conciseness and crispness of his creating — I certainly experimented with to emulate him for a whilst.

And then I at last understood there was just one writer that motivated my style far more than any other: Harlan Ellison, ideal acknowledged as a science fiction and fantasy author. Apart from producing entertaining tales, he would do these genuinely appealing introductions to his stories, and they ended up often prepared so conversationally– this seriously drew you into them. A lot of moments now, even as a advertising writer, men and women say that my design is breezy and conversational, and I consider I owe a ton of that type to Harlan Ellison mainly because I was intentionally trying to copy his design and style. I liked the way it sounded and what he was accomplishing.

And Charles Bukowski, the German poet and fiction writer who adopted LA as his household, definitely influenced me. I began out looking at him in the 70s and immediately became a admirer of his gritty, no-nonsense design, his humor and his accessibility. In the 80s, I bought his get in touch with information and facts from a fellow fan and commenced a correspondence with him that lasted from 1983 until finally just just before his loss of life in 1994. I printed his function in Pig in a Poke, a tiny poetry magazine that I edited for most of the 80s and even place out a little pamphlet of his do the job. He was an inspiration simply because he was a effectively-regarded writer who however kept in contact with his smaller-push roots.

Allen: You started out a critically acclaimed journal in the 80s called Pig in a Poke, which you published from 1982 to 1989. What gave you the notion for the magazine and why did you end creation?

Calhoun: It really is attention-grabbing. I nonetheless see on line references occasionally to Pig in a Poke and other publications from about that time. Some of them, like Thunder Sandwich and Black Bear Review, are still heading proper now. What gave me the thought for it? At that time I experienced only been released as a poet for a couple yrs. I was working as a ebook reviewer, and when I say doing the job I imply I was becoming compensated in copies of the textbooks I reviewed. I was not making any revenue. I was performing yet another job and seeking to obtain my accomplishment as a writer.

There ended up a large amount of compact-push poetry magazines at that time. I definitely appreciated the way their editors did company. They were normally truly fast in replying. They gave guidance. They had been additional conversational in their letters. It was a kind method and I actually appreciated it mainly because as each individual author is aware of those rejection slips can be impersonal and really difficult to take care of. I believed I would be excellent at editing a journal and I also assumed it would expose me to a ton additional poetry, which it did, most of it definitely negative poetry. Certainly I received to know a great deal of poets in the scene.

I revealed Pig in a Poke out of my individual pocket for a variety of many years, which is why generally I stopped generation because it bought to be much too considerably of a drain on my funds. But also its time experienced passed with me. I began to function in marketing and advertising and get authentic-globe work. I failed to have as much time for it as I experienced had ahead of. It helps make me imagine that quite possibly I could revive it on the World wide web due to the fact which is more of an immediate medium that printing it myself on paper.

More than the course of the decades from 1982 to 88, I held a collection of Pig in a Poke poetry readings at Hemingway’s in Pittsburgh each individual yr. They have been productive and a good deal of exciting.

Allen: Do you feel these magazines and chapbooks are a excellent way to get do the job published nowadays?

Calhoun: If your goal is to make dollars, they’re a terrible concept. But my purpose was not at all to make funds. It was to get my poetry exposure, to get folks to examine my stuff and react to it and convey to me how to enhance and to connect to it in some emotional way. In that feeling, the minimal publications are excellent since it is a little bit easier to get revealed in them than the mainstream magazines. Some of them are of incredibly large high-quality, though. Normally what you get from them is editors that are fast to answer and react with a whole lot extra empathy– they really will give you tips or notify you what they like or you should not like about your poetry. And that’s really worthwhile, specifically for a youthful writer or a person who hasn’t finished it for that prolonged. Furthermore, due to the fact they are rapid to answer and affordable to make there was the thrill of acquiring to see your function fairly promptly. It is not really as rapid as the Net is currently, but you could get a poem approved and in a couple of months you could see it in print. And you got to share your ideas with many others. It was enjoyable.

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

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


By Harry Calhoun

It can be like a door closing.

I want it to be mild, noiseless,

Japanese. Reopen it and apologize

to the wood if it slams.

But humidity swells this

over and above what it really should be

and the squeak and push

to close it sounds

as if I beg

to be enable again in.

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