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Assignment Writing
by on August 25, 2019
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"This is just brilliant. The whole interview is incredible... I'm... REALLY appreciative of some seriously good advice from a fellow writer." Mark Howell, Senior Writer, Solares Hill https://www.cvwriting.ae Harry Calhoun's picture could appear beside the dictionary definition for "journeyman." Living proof that not all writers have to be famous or stick to one type of writing to be successful, Calhoun has found frequent editorial favor as a poet since 1980 and was a widely published freelance article and literary essay writer in the 80s and 90s. In addition, he has edited a poetry magazine and a trade magazine for the housing industry and placed poetry and fiction pieces in magazines such as Thunder Sandwich and The Islander. He has been an award-winning marketing writer for multinational companies such as GE and IBM for the past twenty years. Trina Allen is a freelance writer and editor who has read and enjoyed much of Calhoun's work. Trina Allen: Your poetry has gotten you the most recognition in publications. To what do you attribute your success? Harry Calhoun: Absolutely no doubt, three words -- three words, short attention span! That's why I like my job now. Marketing writing is a lot like poetry. It's frequently very short. It's trying to express something in the fewest amounts of words and say it with the kind of spin that sticks with the person who's reading it. It certainly isn't poetry, but it's the same mentality, just trying to say things really quickly and crisply. People think that poetry is flowery language or something that goes on and on, but usually it's quite the opposite, it's succinct and quick... trying to nail it in as few words as possible. Allen: Is there any one poem that you consider your most successful piece? Calhoun: Yeah, there's a poem -- ironically, a very short one -- called "Leaving." I always look at that as a success because I feel like it captured the feeling and the moment concisely and with compact verbiage. Allen: You started a critically acclaimed magazine in the 80s called Pig in a Poke, which you published from 1982 to 1989. What gave you the idea for the magazine and why did you stop production? Calhoun: It's interesting. I still see online references occasionally to Pig in a Poke and other magazines from around that time. Some of them, like Thunder Sandwich and Black Bear Review, are still going right now. What gave me the idea for it? At that time I had only been published as a poet for a couple years. I was working as a book reviewer, and when I say working I mean I was being paid in copies of the books I reviewed. I wasn't making any money. I was working another job and trying to find my success as a writer. There were a lot of small-press poetry magazines at that time. I really liked the way their editors did business. They were usually really fast in replying. They gave advice. They were more conversational in their letters. It was a kind approach and I really liked it because as every writer knows those rejection slips can be impersonal and pretty tough to handle. I thought I would be good at editing a magazine and I also thought it would expose me to a lot more poetry, which it did, most of it really bad poetry. Definitely I got to know a lot of poets in the scene. https://www.cvwriting.ae I published Pig in a Poke out of my own pocket for a number of years, which is why basically I stopped production because it got to be too much of a drain on my finances. But also its time had passed with me. I started to work in marketing and get real-world jobs. I didn't have as much time for it as I had had before. It makes me think that possibly I could revive it on the Internet because that's more of an immediate medium that printing it myself on paper. Over the course of the years from 1982 to 88, I held a series of Pig in a Poke poetry readings at Hemingway's in Pittsburgh every year. They were successful and a lot of fun. Allen: Do you believe such magazines and chapbooks are a good way to get work published today? Calhoun: If your goal is to make money, they're a terrible idea. But my goal was not at all to make money. It was to get my poetry exposure, to get people to read my stuff and respond to it and tell me how to improve and to connect to it in some emotional way. In that sense, the little magazines are good.
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