The oak of poetry in Hickory, North Carolina

It was like the marketing for an epic movie: “Years in the making!” Scott Owens of the Poetry Hickory series in Hickory, North Carolina, had set up a reading for my old friend Tim Peeler and me as featured readers over a year before the April 13th, 2010 event. Poetic success is hard to measure … financial gain is certainly not always an accurate gauge of it. Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, yet nobody today would contest his brilliance. Same with poetry. I’m not Van Gogh, but I’m not the guy who wrote “The sky was blue, and I was too” either.

Poetry is measured in small increments. I think of religion saving one soul at a time or the sleazy designer in Key West who claimed to be “measuring the island six inches at a time.” In this case, it can be selling chapbooks two or three at a time or evangelizing 50 people in a room. It all counts, but sometimes it seems like a long uphill climb. But I believe the rewards are worth the seemingly small paybacks.

Harry Calhoun reading. Photo by Trina Allen.

On a scale of acorn to oak, this reading was a big old solid oak tree. I sold a few books at the reading and I got to hang out with some great people. Met Helen Losse, who has long edited The Dead Mule and featured my work. My wife Trina was there for moral support and took some great photos with our new digital camera. But the most wonderful thing is the reaction that I got to my poems. They laughed at the right places. They seemed moved at the right times. When I had two poems left to read and was concerned about running long, I asked Scott Owens if I should read one or two. He unhesitantly held up two fingers. (I wasn’t drunk, so I assume that he hadn’t put up one finger and I was seeing double.)

Anyway, the reaction to the poems is what all of us live for … not adulation, but simply knowing that we connect. Tim Peeler followed my performance with an incredible reading of his own powerful poetry from his new book, Checking Out, about his years as a hotel manager. It was an outstanding event and I’m proud to have been part of it.

Tim Peeler and Harry Calhoun. Photo by Trina Allen.

After the reading, we went back to the hotel. The one,. by the way, that Tim had written about in his collection, albeit thoroughly remodeled. Our beloved Alex the Labrador kept us up half the night barking as people came and went. I wondered why so many people were checking in. Then I woke up, pulled back the blind a little and saw a huge bus parked sideways in the parking lot. The bus had literally let out as we tried to sleep. Hmm, maybe I’ll pass on the story to Tim for his next collection: Checking Out II: Things that go Bark in the Night.

New acceptance:
“Rifle” in Gemini
“Pictures of Bukowski” in Orange Room Review

New publication:
Just got word this morning that my new chapbook, Near daybreak, with a nod to Frost, has been published by Propaganda Press and is now in the mail on its way to me.


~ by harryc13 on April 16, 2010.

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